WATSON REIGNS SUPREME
Rob Watson's secured a hat-trick of successive victories on the two day Jaks Bar/Porsche Centre Chester Stages Rally on Saturday afternoon, but he was pushed to the limit to complete the feat.
It was the Kirk Michael driver's fourth win on the rally in total, and after gaining a 26 second advantage on Friday nights six stages, it all seemed very comfortable.
So when Watson and co-driver Bruce Craig powered the Vauxhall Nova kit car to fastest again on the opening run of day two at Jurby and Andreas in the north of the island, the writing seemed to be on the wall.
John Cope and Rob Fagg had other ideas however, snatching 13 seconds back on the next test at The Cronk. When they repeated the feat two stages later they had surged up to second place from an overnight fourth.
Steve Quine and John Skinner (Vauxhall Astra) were right in contention too, just seven seconds down on Cope with four stages still to run, two each on the classic Tholt-y-Will and Brandywell/Druidale tests.
Cope gave it everything in his Subaru WRC on the first of them, matching the 'bogey' time, only for Watson to hit back over the Druidale section he knows so well. 'We gave that everything, I could do no more, absolutely on the limit', said the leader as he felt the pressure.
Quine echoed the sentiments, but had still conceded a further three second to Cope by final service.
Over the final two stages Cope and Fagg took back another ten, but the charge didn't quite pay off, the pair falling 16 seconds short of Watson.
'I'm knackered!' exclaimed the winner at the finish. 'It's great when you really have to battle for it, it means a lot more and the pace was really high all rally. We had a new sponsor on board for this event, A-dore, so it's great to win it for them. Apart from that one excursion on the very first stage it's all gone perfectly'.
Cope had also relished the battle. 'Today was better, daylight and roads that suit my style more. A string of fastest times show how well we were going, but all credit to Rob, he drove a great rally'.
Quine was also delighted. 'I'm much more confident in the car now, the brakes are a lot better, and we are really looking forward to the RBSI Manx'.
George Collister and Janet Craine (Mitsubishi Evo 3) finished fourth, and with big timegaps on either side of them they drove a settled day with no dramas.
John and Paula Swinscoe (Evo 9) finished a superb fifth on their first ever visit to the island. 'I can't believe we've never come before, the place is just awesome. These stages are superb', said John through a beaming smile.
Right at the death event sponsor Adrian Kermode (Porsche 911) and Liz Jordan snatched sixth place from the Vauxhall Nova of Richard Curphey/Andrew Holmes, by just 3 seconds. The result though should be enough for Curphey and Holmes to retain the lead of the Eurocars Motorsport Manx Rally Championship.
The only top ten runners from overnight who failed to make the finish were Dave Corris and Mark Perryman, their Escort WRC blowing a propshaft at the end of stage 10.