- By Jim Cunningham

As usual, the WA Darling 200 didn’t fail to serve up all the action, tension and drama that the rally is famous for. Eighteen year old rally driver, Jack Flanagan, and co-driver, Dave Abetz, left it to the last stage of the last rally to take out the WA Clubman Cup Championship title in a nail biting season ender, over rally veteran Leo Iriks.

The Jarrahdale Darling 200 is the final WA rally battle of the year. It is for 2WD cars only and a blind rally, where the roads are ball bearing skatey, tight, and every inch is lined with thick Jarrah forest. The stages resemble a thin, winding maze through a sea of telegraph poles.

Flanagan started the rally in third position in the championship and to win he needed to place in the top three and put Iriks at least two places behind him.

WARC driver, Lee McIlroy, in his tweaked RX7, set blistering times from the outset, and Julian Wright, whose car was quickly rebuilt after crashing in the Safari Rally, was picking up the pace and applying some heat by stage two.

By stage three Flanagan joined the party, putting in his first fastest stage time and establishing a 24 second lead over Iriks. But it was only good enough for fifth outright and as cars left service, Iriks was still too close, running in sixth. What had begun as a mathematical possibility for Flanagan was fading to a slender hope.

McIlroy suffered gearbox failure and Darling 200 stalwart, Kingsley Foster, who had been quick all day, traded bare seconds and stage wins with Wright for the race lead. Meanwhile, Flanagan gapped Iriks by 46 seconds and inched to fourth place, but Iriks came with him into fifth.

As throttles opened for launch at the last and shortest stage, the championship belonged to Leo Iriks. Leo had driven a solid season, entering and finishing every event and had a great battling outright win over Flanagan at the Expert’s Cup at Collie in June. Now, 20 seconds separated Flanagan from the lead, and if he could drive two places ahead, claw back 11 long seconds in the 7.5 kilometre final stage, he could take second and with it, bag the championship title.

Flanagan had left it to the last stage of the last rally to drive the quickest, most complete stage of his short career. Pulling back the ‘magic’ 11 seconds, he moved into second place and for the first time in the season, snatched the championship lead.

“In the beginning I was worried about tyres, but the car was performing well and by the last stage I had to go for it. That’s as hard as I’ve ever pushed,” Flanagan said.

“I’m happy to win the championship. I really enjoyed the contest with Leo.”

Asked about goals for 2009 Jack added: “I’d like to drive a couple of WARC events and graduate to a 4WD turbo, and I’m also really interested in the Fiesta Sporting Trophy Series in New Zealand.”

Next week Jack will fly to Melbourne to drive the ECU open wheel Formula SAE car at the world championships.

Darling 200 final positions;
Top 5
1. Julian Wright     47m58s
2. Jack Flanagan    48:05
3. Kingsley Foster    48:07
4.Trevor Chudleigh    48:16
5. Leo Iriks        49:38

WA Clubman Cup Championship points
Top 5
1. Jack Flanagan         130
2. Leo Iriks            126
3. Travis White        100
4. Julian Wright        96
5. Kingsley Foster        92

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