Vauxhall Corsa driver Richard Archer heads the field of BRC Challenge runners on this weekend's Jim Clark Rally, as the British Rally Championship's support series switches to asphalt for the first time in 2009.
He leads the series by seven points with co-driver Thomas Ward, after not only taking maximum points on the Pirelli Rally, but winning the Challenge Rally outright, Archer's first overall victory.
His lead over Fiesta driver John Boyd does not extend to the Junior category though, as the local 22-year old is the best-placed under-25 driver. Boyd also leads the RC3 class in the Championship, a category that the Fiesta SportTrophy normally runs within. Since the Jim Clark is not a scoring round for the FST, it will be down to him and Tom Watson/Ken Bowman, running two cars further back, to uphold Fiesta honour against the rest of the field.
Andy Gwynne and Holly Robinson are actually seeded second on the road, despite languishing in 21st place in the points table. Although Gwynne has undoubted pace in his Saxo, the Citroën's handling has been compromised so far, running Subaru front suspension and suffering mechanical failure on the fourth stage of both opening rounds.
Julian Wilkes and Will Rutherford have also had a frustrating season so far, fuel pressure problems leaving them trailing the rest of the field on both gravel events. Wilkes is relishing the switch back to asphalt, a surface on which has always excelled.
Austin McKinlay and Anthony Palmer rejoin the BRCC, having sat out the Pirelli in their Peugeot 205. They are split from a brace of 106s by Watson's, Fiesta, Brett Griffin/Sam Fordham's RC2 class Peugeot running ahead of the RC1 car of brother and Sister team James and Helen Alexander. Griffin currently lies third in the Championship points table though, only ten points adrift of the leader Archer.
Neil Matthews and John Connor are just inside the top ten on the road, suffering mechanical problems on round one and a self-confessed over cautious approach on the Pirelli.
The remainder of the drivers are at a disadvantage too, James Watts having flown back to the UK from New Zealand to contest his first event in 2009, the Pirelli Rally, while David Radcliffe makes the trip from the Isle of Man to sample the Jim Clark for the first time in readiness for his home event in July.
The BRC Challenge will contest four of Friday night's stages, including two blasts round the new Duns street test after a ceremonial start at FountainPark in Edinburgh. The Jim Clark Challenge Rally finishes at around 4.30pm on Saturday following a further eight stages, running behind the main International event throughout.