WATSON IN COMMAND AFTER OPENING NIGHT
Rob Watson's takes a 26-second lead into the second and final day of the Jaks Bar/Porsche Centre Chester Stages Rally after dominating Friday's opening nights six stages.
The Kirk Michael driver, who has Bruce Craig co-driving for the first time, had only one real scare on the night, but it came on the very first stage, the run up Glenneedle to the famous Mines. 'It was cold tyres and we out-braked ourselves at the very first real corner!' reported the Vauxhall Nova kit car driver at the stop line.
Despite an excursion over the moorland it remarkably cost only a single second, with George Collister and Janet Craine powering their Mitsubishi Evo 3 into an ealry lead. Despite that Grenaby based Collister seemed unhappy with the car.
Steve Quine slotted into third with John Skinner in the Vauxhall Astra, seemingly much more settled after recent work, with John Cope heading the visiting challenge in his Subaru Impreza WRC, co-driven by local Rob Fagg.
These crews have maintained the top four places throughout, but Watson put the hammer down on stage two at the notroius Switchback and Staarvey to move into a seven second lead. The push continued on the next test down Injebreck and through the Baldwins as Collister suffered major brake problems.
Cope meanwhile suffered a high speed 'moment' over mud at the end of Staarvey, dispalying superb car control through an estimated 80mph tank-slapper!
Collister's problems were sorted at service and the Mitsubishi was back on the pace at the start of the second loop of the three tests, in surprisingly dry conditions despite rain throughout the week. In fact the pace was so high that three drivers (Collister, Quine and visitor Daniel Harper in a BMW Mini Cooper S) beat the 'bogey' time by a second.
Watson however stamped his authority on the event once again on the concluding two tests, as he bids to win it for the third straight year.
Quine holds onto second, just seven seconds ahead of Collister with Cope a further 21 back in fourth, though he admits to 'looking forward to tomorrow, I like the stages', so a charge may be on the cards.
The top six are rounded out by Dave Corris/Mark Perryman (Escort WRC) and Eurocars Motorsport Manx Rally Championship leaders Richard Curphey/Andrew Holmes (Vauxhall Nova).
On Saturday the rally base moves to Jurby for service. The morning begins at 9.20am and features two tests repeated, firstly at The Lhen, Rhendhoo and Jurby East and then The Dollagh near Ballaugh, through The Cronk, West Jurby and Sandygate.
By the afternoon the action moves onto two runs up Tholt-y-Will, which is land-locked for spectators, making Brandywell Cottage the best bet for the double run of the Brandywell Road and Druidale.
After 75 miles of high speed stages the leading crews are due at the Jurby finish shortly before 3 o’clock.