The best of the Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship combines with the elite in the Hankook MSA Scottish Rally Championship when the 2009 Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally gets underway next weekend.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the co-promotion of the Border Counties by Whickham & District Motor Club and Hawick & Borders Car Club and over 100 crews will converge on Jedburgh for the event.

After struggling with snow and ice on the opening round of the Scottish Championship last month, several leading competitors will be looking to kick start their campaigns in Kielder Forest as the event will again provide a tough test for SRC crews.

The same can be said of the ANCRO Championship, whereby none of the leading three saw the Bournemouth finish just a couple of weeks ago so all really is to play for in the fast and daunting tracks of Europe’s largest man-made forest.

SRC points leader Reay Mackay and co-driver Robert Macdonald both know it will be difficult to repeat the success of last month’s Snowman victory, where starting position and tyre choice were both critical factors in their MG Metro 6R4. The Fort Augustine driver will be up against it in the shape of Castle Douglas driver Jock Armstrong who leads Hankook Group N after the first round, and with co-driver Kirsty Riddick, the pair will debut a newly-built Subaru Impreza N11 on the Border Counties.

In the Pirelli-backed National Championship, the top three seeds will take up battle stations after disappointment on Rallye Sunseeker for Marcus Dodd (Poole), Steve Perez (Chesterfield) and Paul Bird (Penrith), all of whom retired due to various problems on the season opener. All have good form in Kielder and with series leader Sean Devine not entered, it is bound to throw the series wide open.

David Bogie rolled out of last year’s event and the young Dumfries driver is hoping to make amends and fellow Dumfries competitor Rory Young was among those who coped well in the treacherous conditions up in Inverness in his Mitsubishi Evo 5.

Last year’s SRC championship runners-up Mike Faulkner and Peter Foy are looking for a big points haul in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 and in the two-wheel drive category, there is the prospect once again of a battle with Yorkshireman Steve Bannister, Aberdeenshire’s Calum Mackenzie and Borderer Mike Horne among those vying for honours in their respective Mk 2 Escorts.

The event forms the second round of the Mitsubishi Ralliart Evo Challenge whereby Irishman Daniel Barry leads Welshman Simon Hughes and they’ll come under pressure from the likes of Nik Elsmore and Owen Murphy. The event is also the first round of the 2009 Brick & Steel Ecosse 205 Challenge.

The SRC competitors will tackle the five Saturday stages, but in the ANCRO class, crews will also attempt two night stages in Wauchope Forest on the Friday evening.

For full details, including spectator information, go to www.bordercountiesrally.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)

Hankook Scottish Championship after Round One
1 Reay Mackay 30
2 Jock Armstrong 28
3 David Bogie 27
4 Rory Young 26
5 William Bonniwell 25

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

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