Higgins takes fifth Rally Isle of Man to level BRC
Date published : 14 Jul 2009 - 08:39:47
Pirelli TEG Sport’s Mark Higgins
and Bryan Thomas have taken an historic victory on the 46th Rally
Isle of Man, the fourth round of the MSA British Rally
Higgins’ win makes him not only
the most successful driver in the event’s history, the only person to have won
here five times, but it puts him and Keith Cronin level at points at the head of
the British Rally Championship points standings.
Differential problems for both
triple BRC Champion and the 22 year pretender to the crown meant that with three
stages remaining, just 5.7 seconds split the pair. Higgins team was forced to
remove the gearbox twice within four stages to fix the differential and a broken
clutch. But despite the fierce battle, rallying camaraderie shone through when
some of Cronin’s army of followers pushed Higgins off a bank after struggling
round a tight hairpin with no clutch.
“It has been the most difficult
and hard fought event I can remember,” he said at the Douglas TT Grandstand
finish. “It was great to win here last year and add Rory (Kennedy’s) name to the
trophy, but this is fantastic, especially as
Bryan now has four wins, equal to Derek Ringer.
Keith is a great opponent and I've been amazed at his pace on my
Cronin and co-driver Greg Shinnors
were second after one of the tensest events in the rally’s history, eventually
finishing nearly a minute and a half adrift after a late puncture took the
pressure off Higgins. The whole event had held its breath until the problem,
with the lead changing several times and each driver taking ten stages wins
Alastair Fisher and last year’s
winning co-driver Rory Kennedy were third, the young Irishman not succumbing to
pressure from Adam Gould who crashed out in his Pirelli Star Driver prize car on
stage 17 of 20. It was Fisher who took the nomination for the 2009 Pirelli award
shootout after his excellent first BRC podium place.
Despite Gould’s accident, Higgins’
result is enough to extend Pirelli TEG Sport’s lead in the MSA British Teams’
Rally Championship. They now lead by 31 points over Team JRM Lico with
Revolution Wheels a further 19 points adrift.
Heading the Rally 3 class was Tom
Walster with new co-driver Craig Parry, their fantastic sounding Clio R3 keeping
the crowds entertained on their way to eighth place in the British Rally
Championship classified finishers.
After two crashes in two days, Kris Hall and Robbie Durant were second, but only
after a spirited drive from Friday’s Fiesta Sport Trophy winner Craig Breen and
Gareth Roberts ended when they retired with just four stages remaining. Third
were the distant but delighted Harry Hunt and Kris Killip, the 20 year-old
Londoner contesting his first BRC event after moving up from the BRC Challenge.
Taking Rally 2 and the C2R2 Cup
were Martin McCormack and Phil Clarke in their immaculate Citroën C2, also
winning the two wheel drive category, top placed Junior driver and a cheque for
€4,000. The prize fund, which is awarded for the Citroën Racing Trophy,
comprises €2,000 for the Citroën win, doubled up for being quickest front wheel
drive. Jason Pritchard and Andrew Edwards were the only other finishers in the
category, the little R2 cars placed sixth and seventh overall in the British
Rally Championship order.
In Rally 1 it was the Suzukis
which dominated, Luke Pinder and Peter Scott taking the Swift Sport Cup by force
too. They held a two minute gap to David Harrison until the final stage, where
they took it very easy, still managing to finish over a minute clear and with it
a cheque for £500. Honda Civic driver Joseph McGonigle overcame brake problems
to take third in R1, relegating Gordon Nichol to fourth. Although the Scot and
his co-driver Emma Morrison took highest placed mixed crew on the event and now
lead the Swift Sport Cup Championship.
The Diesel Cup went to Steve and
Tony Graham in their “Boom Box” Astra. They had fitted a speaker under the
bonnet of the ultra-quiet car in an attempt to warn spectators of their arrival,
playing a range of classical and house music on the stages. Fin McCaul and Huw
Mathias stopped on Friday when an accident left them with just three wheels on
their BMW, but used re-start rules to keep their Championship hopes
The next round of the MSA British
Rally Championship. the Toddsleap.com Ulster International Rally, is based in
its new Antrim home on 21st and 22nd August, from where
new stages will effectively present a blank canvas for the continuation of
battle for the 2009 title.