Teenager Finlay Retson took the icy and treacherous conditions in his stride last weekend (10th February), taking a class win and 21st overall at the opening round of the ARR Craib MSA Scottish Rally Championship, the Arnold Clark Snowman Rally.
After recently announcing his plans to contest the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship (BRC) Cadet Cup in 2018, the 17-year-old Blairgowrie driver would tackle the notoriously difficult Inverness based event as a test event, ahead of the first BRC round in March.
Using his newly acquired Ford Fiesta R2, Retson and co-driver Tom Hynd, stayed largely out of trouble in each of the six slippery stages to win class three by almost 50 seconds from his nearest rival.
Retson has followed the ladder of progression through the sport to the letter, contesting the F1000 Scottish Junior series for 14-17 year olds and taking the title in 2016. After progressing into the BTRDA national championship and the Fiesta ST Trophy last year which resulted in a category win on the Woodpecker Stages, he will be making the biggest leap of his career in 2018 as he tackles the British Championship in the Cadet category, designed specifically for younger newcomers to the series.
In a bid to get some additional experience behind the wheel for the season ahead, Retson headed to his “home” event and was greeted by the unpredictable conditions. Perhaps understandably, the opening two stages of the event saw him haemorrhage some time as he settled back into the driver’s seat after a winter break.
But the warmer conditions in the afternoon saw the DJR Services backed youngster find his feet, overcoming a misfire on the penultimate test to set a string of impressive stage times during the day. Retson made it across the ceremonial finish with a class victory, finishing just outside the top twenty.
“That was a pretty good start to the season,” said Retson at the finish.
“It was a very difficult morning to be honest, but I think everyone had a hard time trying to get a good rhythm on the ice. We had a few overshoots and I struggled a little with the chicanes at times but it’s been a while since I’ve been in the car at competitive speeds I’m still learning the left-hand drive aspect too, so to come away with such a good result bodes well for the BRC next month”.
However, he knows that the British Championship will be a much tougher prospect as the series opens with a tough, two-day event in the south of Scotland.
“I needed to get comfortable in the car and the Snowman Rally was perfect for that, but I know the Border Counties (Rally) will be very difficult as we adapt to the longer events and pre-event reconnaissance. It’s a big challenge, but one I feel ready for and this weekend was a great way to boost my confidence for the season ahead”.
The opening round of the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship, the NCS Border Counties Rally, takes place in Jedburgh on 10th/11th March.
Retson is supported by DJR Services, JSR Services – Blairgowrie Ltd, G S Robertson Ltd, LHS Logistics, JoAgri Ltd, Kevin Donachie Electricians, West Ranga Properties, Robert Morton Joiners & Contractors, Vital Equipment Limited, Andrew Wood Motorsport and Results Gym Forfar.
Image: Eddie Kelly Motorsport Photography