Nannup local Tom Wilde has driven himself to the top of the WARC standings with one round to go after a hard-fought battle with Chris Anderson around the forests of Collie for victory in the Experts Cup on the weekend.

The two were separated by only 1.5 points after the previous Lewana Stages event where Anderson drove his brother’s Subaru to a superb victory with Wilde third, more than two minutes down the road.

It was Wilde’s turn to shine at Collie – the penultimate round of the championship - winning by 17 seconds from Anderson, returning him to the winners circle after taking out the WARC section of the Quit Forest Rally earlier in the year.

Wilde attributed the win to a change in driving style suggested by Busselton Subaru Rally team owner and WA rallying stalwart Leigh Hynes who told the Experts Cup winner to shift up a gear heading into corners to minimise wheel-spin.

"Before we used to throw the car into the corners quite hard but for this event we just went up a gear and it pulled through much quicker," Wilde said.

"We went back to our old driving style for the first night stage and we lost 14 seconds to Chris," he said, "but then we got back within four seconds on the next one when we went back to the new style."

Wilde said winning the first stage of the day also set him and co-driver Narralie Wilde up for tilt at outright victory.

"Because we got Chris by three seconds on the first stage and because it was probably the fastest we had ever driven, we thought: ‘we can do this’," Wilde said. "That pretty much boosted our confidence to push for the rest of the day."

Anderson was gallant in defeat and even gave the Wilde’s a fright when he fought back from a 30-second penalty he received for being late out of the service park just before the night stages.

"Chris ended up as the car in front of us for the night stages and watching him take off from the start line like he was really going for it made sure that we had to do the same," Wilde said.

"We knew we had about 30 seconds on him going in to the first night stage. He got us by 14 seconds on the first one and we thought ‘gees if he gets us by that on every night stage, we’ll be gone’."

"We pulled up at the start of the final stage and I was really nervous," he said. "Nerralie’s feet were tapping on the floor so she was really nervous as well."

"But we got to the end of the last stage and asked the guy at control what stage time Chris had got. When he had only beaten us by one second, we were pretty happy then - I knew we had it."

Both drivers were awarded the Experts Cup for having a top-six stage time on every stage of the event, which was proof that it was a fair-dinkum fight between Wilde and Anderson.

Third placed man and Eagle Bay resident Toby Heyring, competing in his first rally in 18 months, was also awarded Experts Cup honours. He played down the result by saying he was the benefactor of a high attrition rate.

"Darren Windus I think had a problem with his intercooler in the first stage, Nick Box went off and broke his car in the first stage and John Macara was soon to follow," Heyring said. "A lot of people dropped out and we were just playing it safe."

"We didn’t want to do anything crazy on our first rally back and we managed to sneak through with third, we were pretty happy."

Doug Tostevin and Garry Whittle were the fourth and fifth placed cars home while David and Tina Gould continued their recent run of good form to finish in sixth place outright.

With one rally to go in October, Wilde now leads the state championship on 122 points, Anderson is in second place on 117.5 points while John Macara is in third with 81 despite not finishing the Collie event.

2WD class honours went to Travis White who won the class by more than 35 seconds from second placed 2WD man Kiel Douglas who beat third placed Julian Wright home by 16 seconds. Douglas leads the class on 122 points, Razvan Vlad is second on 112 points while Craig Puzey is third on 86 points.

There were 23 clubman entries for this year’s event at Collie with eight at the back of the field doing only five stages. Matt Snadden had a welcome return to rallying with a win in the Clubman only portion with a gap of 49 seconds over Steve Vass in his rapid Datsun 1600. Nick King pushed hard all day to bring his well-prepared Escort home in third position.

The entire WARC circuit will now have a break before Wilde and Anderson battle it out in the championship decider at the Western Safari Rally due to take place at Chidlow on October 16th, 2010.
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