Played one, lost one…

That’s the demographic that makes uneasy reading for the top three in the 2009 Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship after the opening salvo in Bournemouth last month.

Defending champion Marcus Dodd, as well as former champs Paul Bird and Steve Perez all failed to see the finish ramp on Rallye Sunseeker so as they head north to Kielder forest, they know a good score is imperative on the Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally if they are to mount a successful bid for the 2009 crown.

Perez, along with co driver Paul Spooner, beached his ex Marcus Gronholm Ford Focus WRC 07 early on in Dorset and a stage later, Dodd and co driver Andrew Bargery, went out with engine problems in the Hyundai Accent WRC. That left Bird and co driver Ian Windress to take advantage but their bid for glory fell three stages short when an electrical fault when leading sidelined the recently acquired Ford Focus WRC 07.

But the omens aren’t good as Dodd doesn’t have fond memories after rolling there last year and Bird and Perez, neither of whom contested the Whickham & District Motor Club and Hawick & Borders Car Club-organised event last year, have had their share of problems on the event in the past. Perez won last weekend’s Malcolm Wilson Rally whereas arch-rival Bird crashed out meaning a hasty repair job to get the severely damaged Focus fixed in time for the two-day event based in Jedburgh.

ANCRO series leader Sean Devine is not on the current entry list so it could well be one of the Mitsubishi Ralliart Evo Challenge and ANCRO Group N runners who emerge top of the leaderboard come next Saturday evening as Irishman Daniel Barry leads Welshman Simon Hughes but they’ll come under pressure from the likes of Nik Elsmore, Alan Carmichael and Owen Murphy.

Yorkshireman Charlie Payne will tackle his fourth rally in as many weekends following an amazing feat by his MSR Motorsport team who have re-shelled the Mitsubishi Lancer WRC in just four days following his Malcolm Wilson crash and he’s hoping this weekend’s run on the Riponian is kinder to him, and West Country driver Alan Cookson grabbed a smart points haul in round one and the Subaru driver will be looking for more of the same up in Scotland,

Crews tackle two night stages in Wauchope Forest on Friday evening before the remaining five stages take place on the classic Kielder tracks on Saturday.

For full details, including spectator information, go to www.bordercountiesrally.co.uk and for championship positions, visit www.gravelrally.co.uk

Top Ten
1 Steve Perez/Paul Spooner (Ford Focus WRC 07)
2 Marcus Dodd/Andrew Bargery (Hyundai Accent WRC)
3 Paul Bird/Ian Windress (Ford Focus WRC)
4 Daniel Barry/Martin Brady (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9)
5 Jock Armstrong/Kirsty Riddick (Subaru Impreza)
6 David Bogie/Kevin Rae (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9)
7 Simon Hughes/Craig Parry (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9)
8 Mike Faulkner/Peter Foy (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6)
9 Charlie Payne/Craig Thorley (Mitsubishi Lancer WRC)
10 Nik Elsmore/Craig Drew (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9)

Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship Standings after Round One
1 Sean Devine 25
2 Daniel Barry 22
3 Simon Hughes 20
4 Anthony Willmington 19
5 Andreas Magnusson 18

2009 Events
Round 1 – 27/28th February – Rallye Sunseeker, Bournemouth
Round 2 – 21st March – Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally, Jedburgh
Round 3 – 18th April – Pirelli Tour of Cumbria, Carlisle
Round 4 – 8/9th May – RBS International Manx Rally, Douglas
Round 5 – 30th May – Severn Valley Rally, Builth Wells
Round 6 – 18th July – Swansea Bay Rally, Swansea
Round 7 – 5th September – Woodpecker Rally, Ludlow
Round 8 – 26th September – Trackrod Rally, Pickering

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