Jimmy Girvan threw down the gauntlet to his title challengers with an emphatic win on Saturday's Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally, the second round of the Hankook MSA Scottish Championship.

Despite a puncture, the 2008 Scottish Champion led the overall results from start to finish to take victory by 17.6 seconds over David Bogie, with Mike Faulkner a further 12.7 seconds back in third.

After the disappointment of a non-finish on the Snowman Rally last month, Girvan was delighted - and relieved - to have got his Scottish title defence back on track on the Jedburgh-based event.

On a day of bright sun and blue skies, the fast, dusty, Kielder Forest stages were in sharp contrast to the snow and ice of the opening round.

Girvan, and co-driver Mike Ramsay, were immediately on the pace with fastest times through the first two tests - Ogre Hill and Redesdale - before a puncture knocked them off course on the 15-mile Harwood run. They recovered to record second quickest times on the remaining Hyndlee and Wynburgh Hill stages.

"It's been a brilliant day - the first two stages were fantastic," he said. "When we had a puncture on the third stage and dropped a wee bit of time, I thought it was day over for me, so we had to really attack in the last two, and we've managed to just pull it back. So yes, we're really happy with the result - the championship challenge starts here!"

David Bogie and navigator Kevin Rae took top Hankook Group N honours for production-based cars in their Mistubishi Evo 9.

Having managed only a seventh-quickest time through the first stage, Bogie admitted he had felt 'a bit rusty' and Rae had been urging him on. The hurry-up call seemed to do the trick - the pair were third fastest through Redesdale, and second behind Girvan on the three remaining stages.

"It's been a good day with no major problems," said Bogie. "The car's gone well and although we had a bit of a slow start, we got there in the end so I'm happy enough and I'm already looking forward to the next round."

Following a difficult first round in the treacherous conditions, Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy kick-started their campaign by securing the final podium place in their Group A Mitsubishi Evo 6 although the day was not without its 'moments'.

"After a good first stage, we were trying really hard on the second," said the Gretna-based driver. "There was a fast entrance over a crest, and we locked the front a bit, and dropped it into a ditch - losing perhaps fifteen or twenty seconds. But then about a hundred yards further on there was a chicane. We thought we'd hit one cone, which incurs a ten second penalty, but we were told that it was in fact three - it appears they were taped together - so that was very frustrating. However, we're delighted with third - it's a points finish, and we just want to go and do better on the next round."

Young Borders star Euan Thorburn, with navigator Claire Mole, again showed real pace to end the day fourth overall and second in Group N at the wheel of his Subaru Impreza.

The 22-year-old had struggled on the season-opener and was relieved to get through his home event with such a positive display.

"We needed this after the Snowman," said Thorburn. "The first two stages we struggled - the last gravel rally we did was October and it took a bit to get into our stride. But we had a real push on the last two stages and were quickest on the final test - so it's good when it all comes together."

Fifth-placed Jock Armstrong debuted his newly-built Subaru Impreza N11 on the Border Counties, having won Group N on the Snowman in a hired N12.

Like Faulkner, the Castle Douglas driver had an unwelcome encounter with three chicane cones, adding 30 seconds to his total-time.

Apart from obvious frustration over the incident, Armstrong, with Kirsty Riddick on the notes, said he was '99 percent satisfied' with the performance of the new car.

"Being the first time out, it's been OK," said Armstrong. "As we've gone through the day, I've been giving the car a lot of thought as to where changes can be made before the next round".

Snowman winner Reay Mackay and co-driver Robert MacDonald finished the day sixth overall in their MG Metro 6R4.

"We had a few problems at the start of the day with a mis-fire which put us down on the first stage, but we were fifth fastest on the second and third stages and held our own from then on - so we're quite happy," he said. "We'll just have to go a bit quicker on the Granite."

Dumfries farmer Rory Young admitted that he and co-driver Allan Cathers had been 'pleasantly surprised' by their seventh place finish in their Mitsubishi Evo 5.

"We've thoroughly enjoyed it," he said. "We didn't think we'd get as close as we have to the newer cars at the front on the fast stages, so it's been a good day."

Following an early retirement on the Snowman, Stonehaven's Barry Groundwater and navigator Jude Wylie ended the day seventh overall. Northern Ireland's Adrian Hetherington and Gary Nolan were the leading Escort Mk2 competitors, crossing the finish in the shadow of Jedburgh Abbey in ninth overall. The Mk2 of Yorkshireman Steve Bannister and co-driver Louise Sutherland also made the best of the dry conditions to round off the top ten and take a class win.

In the 1600 class, top honours went to Alnwick's Carl and Robin Tuer in their MG ZR S1600 with Mark McCulloch and Craig Wallace recording an excellent second place in only their second outing in a newly acquired Vauxhall Corsa.

Aberdeen's Euan Duncan and co-driver Jake Dickie won the first round of the Brick & Steel 205 Ecosse Challenge in their 1.9 Peugeot 205 Gti.

Hankook SRC crews will now prepare for the next round - the Station Garage Mitsubishi Granite City Rally in Aberdeen on 25th April.



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