Isle of Mull rally ace John MacCrone has won the inaugural 2009 Hankook Scottish Rally Championship Junior Prize Drive - which will see him compete in a fully supported Group N car on an international event in China.

The 20-year-old - who learned of his success at the SRC awards ceremony in Glasgow on Saturday - said he was "absolutely flabbergasted" at winning such a prestigious prize.

He said it was the fulfilment of a life-long dream to drive a top spec four-wheel drive car, adding that his Chinese trip would be the first time he had been out of the UK.

It caps a remarkable season for the apprentice joiner from Dervaig, who has also won the Scottish Junior Championship, the SRC Class 3 title, and the 1.6 class in the Brick & Steel Ecosse 205 Challenge at the wheel of his Peugeot 205 GTi

John has been accompanied throughout the season by his co-driving uncle and fellow Mull resident Peter MacCrone.

The outcome of the Junior Prize Drive could not have been closer, with John taking top honours by just one point, with two runners-up scoring 20 points each.

It followed a season-long detailed assessment by five judges - among them rallying legend Jim McRae and leading co-driver Dave Robson - which focused on all aspects of modern-day rallying - from driving ability and team work, to media relations and physical fitness.

The five other finalists were Scottish champion, David Bogie, Alick Kerr, Mark McCulloch, Euan Thorburn and David Wilson.

Hankook Motorsports Manager Mike Patterson, who sat on the judging panel, said the final decision had been an extremely difficult one to make, but he hailed John as being a "very worthy recipient".

He said Hankook was committed to nurturing young drivers, and the Junior Prize Drive had been an important part of the 2009 programme.

"We have been truly impressed with the standard of drivers, which has exceeded all of our expectations," he said, "not just on the rally stages, but in the service areas, and on the training days organised by the championship".

"The SRC has a great heritage of promoting and encouraging young drivers and we have thoroughly enjoyed being part of this."

The Prize Drive will allow John to choose and compete on an event in the 2010 Rally of China calendar.

He will receive full prior tuition from a leading international driver and the support of a works team while on the event.

Co-driver Peter will also have tuition from a top international navigator.

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