The normally quiet roads which meander through the Borders will this weekend be turned into Britain’s fastest rally stages as the area hosts the biggest single motorsport event of the year, the annual Jim Clark International Rally.
A counter in the British Rally Championship, as well as the County Saab Scottish and Irish Tarmac championships, the event is the only rally to be held on closed-off public tarmac roads.
While reigning British champ Guy Wilks, who made the perfect start to his defence when he powered his works Mitsubishi Lancer to victory in the opening round, the Pirelli International, he faces stiff competition from triple British champ Mark Higgins.
The Welsh-based Manxman, a former winner of the Borders event, will head out from rally HQ in Kelso this morning knowing consistency, rather than outright speed, will be his primary objective.
“We’re just not going to have the outright pace of the current Mitsubishis,” Higgins, who will drive the TEG Sport 2006-spec Subaru Impreza for the remainder of the season, admitted yesterday ahead of the ceremonial start in the town square.
“That’s why consistency is paramount for me. The Mitsubishis have a strong package but if we keep the pressure on them, then who knows just what might happen.”
After failing to finish the opening round, the former champ is fully aware he needs a big points score this weekend if he is to challenge for a fourth British title. Wilks meanwhile is hoping he doesn’t repeat his experiences of 12 months ago.
“I crashed out when I was leading the event, so I wasn’t best pleased,” the Englishman smiled. “It was great to start the season with another victory and I know we have the pace to win again in the Borders.
“But with the forecast of rain and showers, the tarmac roads are going to be treacherously slippery so while I’ll be pushing on, I’ll also be making sure we keep the car on the road.”
The action gets underway today with 12 high speed stages before finishing back in Kelso tomorrow after the final six tests.