Kirk Michael driver Rob Watson maintained his incredible victory run on closed roads Manx rally events yesterday, claiming the Black Horse Finance Stages Rally by just under a minute.
The Vauxhall Nova kit car driver, with Bruce Craig alongside, had gone into the final days nine stages in third place, 12 seconds off the lead after a testing opening night in variable weather conditions.
George Collister and Janet Craine (Mitsubishi Evo 3) led, with Mark Cubbon and Jonathan Turnbull (Evo 7) only four seconds behind, despite clutch problems that prompted an overnight change of the unit.
Sadly however both crews were sidelined at the end of the morning’s opening test at Crogga near Santon, ending the prospect of a thrilling battle.
Instead Watson inherited a 46 second advantage over Donny Gill and Steve Gurney’s Evo 2, and the Nova crew gradually eased the lead up to a minute on the following tests at Ronague and St Marks and maintained it during the rest of the day.
Focus switched to the battle for second place. Visiting driver Dave Pattison and local note-caller Rob Fagg had surged back up the leaderboard after early turbo hose problems the previous evening dropped them outside the top 20.
A string of fastest times on Saturday continued the upwards momentum, and after the second loop of the three stages they pulled level with Gill.
On the final run of Marine Drive , three tests from home, they took the position, only to hand it back on the penultimate stage of the rally after a spin on the Ronague test.
With seven seconds to make up they pushed extremely hard on the last test at St Marks, taking fastest time by 12 seconds to snatch the spot at the very end.
Nigel Cannell and Norman Quayle (Vauxhall Corsa kit car) moved up the leaderbaord throughout the day to finish fourth and take the 1600cc class win, despite late gear-lever problem that required it to be held in with screwdrivers and a gorse twig!
Behind Steve Quine and Richard Skinner set three fastest times in their Vauxhall Astra to move up to fifth and take the two-litre class, with Noel and James Kelly (Evo 6) coming home sixth after being caught in wrong tyres in the continuing mixed weather conditions.
Seventh place meanwhile moves Cex Walker and Danni Matthews (BMW 320) into the lead of the Eurocars Motorsport Manx Rally Championship with one round to go, after the leaders coming into the event, Richard Curphey and Andrew Holmes, crashed their Vauxhall Nova out on Marine Drive mid-way through the second day. Walker and Matthews also took the rear-wheel drive category
Sean Crellin (Suzuki Swift), driving his first event for eight years, took a dominant win in the 1400cc class with Brian Karran, while Irish legend Dessie McCartney and co-driver Ian Paget took the historic win in a Porsche 911.