Burton upon Stather’s Tim Rodgers contested his first gravel rally for three years last weekend on the Scottish Challenge event and he was heading for a second place finish when he went off the road avoiding another crew’s accident on the final stage.
Rodgers and co-driver Stefan Arndt were using a Rally4Real.com Ford Fiesta ST and after being on the pace on the tarmac of the Jim Clark Challenge rally they were aiming to be the fastest Fiesta crew in the forests of Dumfries and Galloway.
The event started with two stages in the forests around Ae village before a blast around the popular spectator stage in Heathhall. Despite bending the rear beam in Ae West Rodgers lay in 6th place. Rodgers moved up to fifth after stage four and then a stunning time in the second run of Ae West, where he was quicker than all the other crews, saw him up into third.
“We started off not pushing too hard as I’ve not competed on gravel for a long time,” said Rodgers. “Even so we were beating all the other Group N Fiesta crews and we had a decent position overall. The bent beam meant I had to get used to the car handling slightly differently but it didn’t slow us much. For the second run of Ae I decided to have a real go and it paid off, we were three seconds faster than the event leader and almost 30 seconds quicker than the nearest Fiesta crew.”
The rally moved west for the final two stages in Clatteringshaws forest. Rodgers headed the timesheets again in stage 7, Shaw Hill, and moved into second place overall. He kept up his charge in the final Loch Grannoch stage and it was all going perfectly until a mile from the end when he came round a slight corner at the end of a long straight to find another car partially blocking the road after crashing. Rodgers managed to avoid hitting the car but in doing so his own car went in a ditch at the side of the road and hit some logs. With the car stuck he had no choice but to wait to be recovered and his likely podium finish was gone.
“I’m totally devastated. The team have worked so hard to get us to the event and it looked like we were going to get a second place finish which would’ve been fantastic. It’s particularly gutting that we went out through no fault of our own, there was no time to slow down enough so it was either hit the stricken car or avoid it and land in the ditch and hit the logs, there was nothing else we could do.”
“Thanks to Stefan for a great job on the notes and to Becky Kirvan for the loan of her car. Thanks also to my family for helping me do the rally.”
Rodgers has no definite plans for further events but an entry for his home event, the Trackrod Challenge rally, is possible if he can find sufficient funding.