blair_01The opening round of the 2014 ARR Craib Scottish Rally Championships set off in Inverness at the Arnold Clark Thistle Snowman rally last Saturday. The Snowman rally would also be the first event of the year for Kinross 18 year old Blair Brown, driver of the Peugeot 205 1.6 GTI, backed by QTS Group. Preparations for the rally began early and a test day was complete the week before, allowing Blair and Co-driver Richard Simmonds from Duns, to settle into the car ahead of their season opener.

Blair who is the 2013 and 2014 Royal Scottish Automobile Clubs New Talent Scholar set a strict objective to finish the rally at all costs whilst setting times to the team’s class rivals. On entering special stage one, Millbuie, Blair and Richard were met by a slippery but fast forest lined with spectators and after a clean run the duo were second fastest in class three in their humble Peugeot 205.

With the team delighted with the first stage it was off to special stage two. After tackling the first two miles with aggression Blair hit a deep pot hole which had formed in front of a concrete river crossing, on opposite lock. The hit resulted in a broken drive shaft. Without hesitating the crew lept into action to change the driveshaft on stage, a task which even in a well equipped garage may take some time. With their simple tool kit and small jack only used for changing wheels, Blair and Richard replaced the driveshaft in just over 15 minutes. The team finished the stage and were back in the rally.

Although all hopes of a top end finish were lost the crew still had the point to prove that they will be the ones to watch this season. So with little to lose Blair and Richard were ready to go for the mid day special stage. With the daunting thought in the back of Blair’s mind whether the replaced shaft would hold together and even the thought of the wheel nuts not being tightened the pair of focussed competitors set off into the packed woods for a third time. With no idea of what sort of time the team had set the crew arrived back at service covered in mud and soaking wet to find they had won the stage in their class by a healthy margin of 13 seconds.

But there was no time to celebrate, the old but trusty Peugeot 205 1.6 GTI developed a misfire on the way to service, which thanks to the expertise of the BBR service team was fixed quickly and the team were ready for the final leg of the rally.

Special Stage four was the longest at 12.10 miles long. After reaching the midpoint of the stage the crew were caught out by a front puncture and with little opportunities arising for safe places to change the destroyed tyre and wheel, the team battered on to the end of stage.

Only one stage was left to be complete, Blair and Richard were back into their tool kit once again to change the tyre when a warning light appeared on the dash board. It had appeared that Polly dropped water and the car was running hot. After getting water into the car again the driver and co-driver moved onto the last stage, hoping to cruise the stage and gather the remaining points left for the day, but it did not seem that a cruise was what was in mind. After exiting the last stage of the day Blair and Richard had again won another stage in their class by two seconds.

Blair Brown – QTS Group BBR rally team driver ‘I am extremely happy with our result today even though some people may not be of the same opinion if it was to be theirs. We have won two stages and come second in another. We have been battered with problems and have resolved them. At the end of the day I think I have learnt more today than I did in half of last season. I can’t wait to get to the Border Counties Rally in March to prove we can and will do it’

Richard Simmonds – QTS Group BBR rally team co-driver ‘Enjoyable, frustrating, promising, delicious and educational are words that can be used to describe the 2014 Snowman Rally. Enjoyable being part of an enthusiastic rally team. Frustrating, breaking a drive shaft and getting a puncture. Promising, our times were up there with the best in our class. Delicious, the soup and burger in service. Educational, things we learnt just to get to the finish. As I have been told by somebody much wiser than me that is rallying.

At the end of the event Blair and Richard finished fifth in class three and 69th overall despite their very difficult day.

Blair, Richard and the rest of the QTS Group BBR rallying team will be next out at the Brick and Steel Border Counties rally on March the 22nd in Jedburgh. The team will be in their newly built Peugeot 205 1.6 GTI and they will be ready for a fight.

Blair_BrownA Kinross teenager has become the youngest driver to be awarded the RSAC Motorsport New Talent Scholarship, which aims to set fresh talent on the road to a successful rallying career.

Kinross High School pupil Blair Brown (17) from Muckhart will receive over £1000 worth of support which includes free entry to the prestigious RSAC Scottish Rally in Dumfries on June 29th, a key round of the Scottish and British Rally Championships.

The two-year scholarship is open to drivers under 23 that are registered for the Ecosse Challenge; a feeder series for the MSA Scottish Rally Championship.

Blair, who finished 4th in his first junior season last term, will also receive media training, management guidance and £100 for each round of the Ecosse Challenge he competes in.

He admits the support from RSAC Motorsport will be invaluable, with the award also giving him entry to the high profile 'media stage' of the RSAC Scottish Rally.

Blair said: "I am absolutely delighted with winning the scholarship and I am very thankful to RSAC Motorsport. I think it will benefit me greatly by giving me more media attention.

This will be my first season in the Ecosse Challenge so I will get experience working with the RSAC Motorsport. Without this scholarship I would have struggled in the media stages. It is major part of the season for me and an opportunity to become more known in rallying.

The financial aspects will also help a lot. I want to make rallying a career and I know it is very difficult to break into but I believe that with the RSAC's support and getting my name out there this scholarship will be greatly beneficial to my future plans."

Blair was brought up around rally cars and began quad bike racing in Scottish championships at 12 years old. After deciding to move into car rallying he bought and built a Micra with his father and competed in the Junior 1000 season. This year Blair is driving a Peugeot 205 in the Ecosse Challenge.

Garry Headridge, Scholarship Administrator and Deputy Clerk of the Course at RSAC Scottish Rally said: "The New Talent Scholarship is about giving the opportunity to young drivers to get behind the wheel in a forest and develop their own skills. The scholarship provides the framework of support and takes some of the barriers of competing out of the equation. We look forward to working with Blair in 2013 and into the future."

Also on hand at the announcement was Callum Atkinson, 22 from Lauder, who is in his second year of the scholarship. He said: "I have gained huge benefit from the scholarship in the past year. It given me a platform to progress in the sport.

My advice to Blair is, practice as much as you can, the RSAC have been great at giving me help. It brought a lot of financial benefits, media benefits and I have met new people and contacts within the sport, which is necessary for any driver to progress."

Andrew Pemberton, co-ordinator of Ecosse Challenge said: "It will benefit Blair as a new driver in the Ecosse Challenge, as it has benefitted Callum, giving him support which is vital. All drivers need help with the tools and the trade of rallying so they can progress upwards in the sport and into the future. This scholarship provides this. We are very grateful to the RSAC Motorsport for their support."