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Reigning British Rally Champion Mark Higgins made it two in a row in
this year's Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship after taking
victory in Rally Isle of Man after three days of action on the sometimes
treacherous world famous tarmac roads.
 
Higgins battled variable weather to set 15 fastest stage times on his
way to taking his second victory this season after his tie-break win on
last month's Jim Clark Rally. This time the challenge was not so close
as Higgins' front-running opposition suffered problems with most notably
both Mitsubishi Motors UK cars having incidents taking them out of the
rally on the second day.
 
"All credit to the team, they gave me a fantastic car, it hasn't missed
a beat all rally," said Higgins, co-driven by Rory Kennedy. "We had to
go fast from the beginning and make a lead as if you hang around here
it's gone."
 
Higgins was born on the Isle of Man making his win all the more popular
for the home crowds who watched the Manxman take the finish of the
rally's final stage in front of the famous motorcycle TT race
grandstand. "It was definitely a bonus knowing the roads, especially
with the weather so variable. Tyres were crucial, although it was a case
of trying to be least wrong on choice as the weather changed so much,"
he said.
 
Taking second place of the BRC runners was Guy Wilks delivering another
giant killing performance in the S1600 Suzuki Ignis. Even before the
retirement of the Mitsubishis, WIlks was in a strong second place,
indeed for the second rally in succession the Darlington driver set the
fastest BRC time on the rally's opening stage.
 
"It's definitely a cracking result," said Wilks, who has yet to secure a
budget to contest the championship's next round. Wilks and co-driver
Phil Pugh's car is only two-wheel drive and gives a power advantage to
its heavier four-wheel drive rivals too. "It's a pity it could have been
dry all rally as we would have pushed Mark harder. We made one mistake
and made two wrong tyre choices but we set fastest stage times, which is
awesome."
 
The treacherous nature of the event and the dramas befalling so many
competitors meant that Yorkshireman Jonny Milner could fight back from a
lack of turbo on the first day to take a fine third place. Milner was
also first Mitsubishi Evo Challenge runner home, putting him in the lead
of the competition which has a drive with the works Mitsubishi Motors UK
team in 2007. "It's three long days in this event and you can pick up a
good result even with an ailing gearbox," said Milner, a two-time BRC
champion and Rally Isle of Man winner. "The team did a superb job in
keeping it all together and to have the lead of the Evo Challenge is
fantastic as that means a free works drive next year!"
 
For so many of the BRC frontrunners it was a case of going off the
tricky course, especially in the variable conditions of the second day.
Mitsubishi Motors UK's Rory Galligan and co-driver Greg Shinnors rolled
their car in SS12. "We were looking for a bit more pace, then the rain
came back and on a slippery stretch we understeered, went up bank and
the next moment we were on the roof," said Galligan. The second works
Mitsubishi lasted half a day longer. "The last stage on Friday was like
glass and we had no grip at all. We tried to slow down but we couldn't
and we clipped a bank and took a wheel off," explained driver Ryan
Champion of the incident which caused his and co-driver Craig Thorley's
retirement from the event.
 
Higgins set 15 fastest stage times of the BRC competitors with SJR
Hankook driver Gwyndaf Evans setting three fastest times before his Evo
IX lost a bolt from its differential leaving Evans to retire from the
event.
 
"We were leaving service and leaving an oil trail as a bolt had worked
loose," said the Welshman, BRC champion in 1996 "All the hard work was
done for us and we were only going to go at 80 percent from then to get
the result." Whilst Evans went out of the rally with a whimper,
team-mate Stuart Jones made his retirement very definitely with a bang,
crashing out of the event's second stage on Thursday night. "I haven't
been well the last few days and I'm not sure exactly what happened as we
weren't really pushing in there," said Jones, an MSA British Rally Elite
member, of the roll which put himself and co-driver Craig Parry out of
the rally.
 
Coming home in second position in the S1600 class was Stobart VK M-Sport
Ford Rally Team driver Barry Clark, who had to change his windscreen
after hitting a pheasant during the course of his and co-driver Scott
Martin's rally. "The event went well and we really turned a corner with
the Fiesta's set-up," he said.
 
Round four of the Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship takes
place on September 1-2 with the Ulster International Rally.
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