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The Redback Racing crew of Adam Spence and Erin Kelly made sure they got the most out of their 16,000km journey to Scotland for the Jim Clark Memorial Rally, finishing the rally 18th overall and winning their class.

The trip to the UK also gave Spence (Sydney, New South Wales) and Kelly (Brisbane, Queensland) a valuable insight into the nature of European closed-road rallying, as they took to the Scottish country lanes in the EuroRallye Honda Civic Type R.

A counter in the British Rally Championship, the Jim Clark Memorial Rally takes place on closed asphalt roads in the rural Scottish Borders region south of Edinburgh. Taking its name from the legendary Scottish racing driver who grew up in the Borders, this year’s rally – held from Friday 31 May to Saturday 1 June – consisted of sixteen special stages making up just over 200km of competitive rallying. Four stages ran under darkness on Friday night and the rest ran during the day on Saturday.

Although the Clark was shorter in distance and duration than the Australian Targa events Adam and Erin usually contest, it presented an entirely different set of challenges. The narrow, twisty roads lined with hedges can catch out even the most experienced local crews, and the famously unpredictable Scottish weather makes tyre and setup choices difficult. “The stages were so different to what I am used to”, admitted Adam. “Coming from the wide Targa roads of Australia to these narrow lanes was kind of like training hard at tennis, playing a lot of games, thinking you’re pretty good at tennis – and then turning up to find you’re actually doing a squash match!”

Spence and Kelly also had a different vehicle at their disposal for their foray overseas. In place of the turbocharged Renault Megane 250RS the Redback Racing crew usually pilot was a Honda Civic Type R, prepared by Lancashire two-wheel drive rally experts EuroRallye. With the British Rally Championship being restricted to two-wheel drive cars, the Civic gave Adam and Erin a good opportunity to see how they measured up against the British Championship regulars. “The Civic is definitely a very different car to the Megane, although I think the Honda is probably more suited to the twisty roads on the Clark”, explains Adam. “The tyre choices are very important on events like the Clark, as the weather can have such a big effect it’s important to be on the right tyre”.

Despite knowing full well that the Jim Clark would be a very different experience to the Australian Targa events, Adam and Erin perhaps weren’t expecting to have to face all their new challenges head-on at once. But as they prepared to start the first full-length stage on Friday night – Adam’s first experience of driving competitively in darkness - fog descended over the 25-kilometre Abbey St Bathans test. The Redback crew managed to avoid trouble on the four night stages, though, returning the car to the EuroRallye mechanics for some overnight fettling before the second leg.

The Saturday stages likewise passed without major incident, Adam and Erin gradually building up their speed as their familiarity with the new car, tyres, roads, and navigation increased. The crew were able to manage the gap to the BRC regulars by the end of the rally, even trading times with a few of the UK crews. Crucially, however, they maintained their focus on treating the Jim Clark as a learning experience, all the time enjoying competing on one of Britain’s iconic motor sport events.

18th place outright, a class win and two trophies to take back to Australia was Spence and Kelly’s reward for a measured performance in unfamiliar surroundings, the team draping the Honda in an Australian flag at the finish line in Kelso. Being the furthest-traveled competitors in the rally, Adam and Erin also received much support from fellow competitors, spectators and media alike.

“The whole rally has just been totally different to anything I’ve experienced before, but we have really enjoyed the challenge and above all else have just enjoyed being here and competing”, explains Redback Racing driver Spence. “The experience has definitely benefited us as a crew, so I have to say a big thanks to our supporters Vivant, Motul and RDA EBC Brakes, who made it possible for us to come to the UK, also Racerecall for the supply of our incar cameras.”

“We knew it was going to be a steep learning curve right from the start”, adds Erin. “But when we got to the first full stage, at night, we weren’t expecting fog as well – talk about going in at the deep end! From a navigator’s point of view there has been lots to learn, the nature of the stages makes it very important to get the calls out quickly – and also running on the same bit of road more than once isn’t something we’re used to. It’s been such a challenging weekend, but positively towards the end it felt like we were starting to get the hang of it”.

The Jim Clark Memorial rally may well have been a weekend of learning for Redback Racing - but given the wealth of positive experience they collected, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them out on the European stages again in the future.

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