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Thursday, April 28, 2011
By Andrew Shepherd

Isle of Man based rally co-driver Rob Fagg emerged from the notorious Kielder Forest stages of the Pirelli International Rally last weekend having scooped another podium finish in the UK Fiesta SportTrophy.

Competing on the Carlisle based event alongside 17 year old Welshman Nick Cristofaro in the TEG Sport prepared and run Ford Fiesta ST, the pair’s sole goal heading into the event was to achieve a finish and add further points to their current totals in their dual bid for both the UK Fiesta SportTrophy and also the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship.

The event would mark Nick’s first experience of the Cumbrian forests, renowned not only in British rallying as an ultimate test, but right across the sport worldwide.

It meant that the pre-event reconnaissance of the stages was even more important than normal. The nature of the stages differs greatly from those experienced on the previous round in Wales, a harder surface showered with loose marbles make the car at times feel like your driving on ice and with the period of recent hot weather the dust was also a worry.

Prior to the event start on Friday evening Cristofaro and Cannon Tech. (Scotland) / Synergy IT backed Fagg knew it was going to be a tough event and there first priority was to be back in Carlisle on Saturday evening.

“We have had a good recce and the stages look good, very fast and at times technical and they will require smooth driving with the rough nature to get the most from the tyres” commented Rob. “As always with this rally there is likely to be a high retirement rate and we want to be sure we are not one of them!”

A tea-time start beckoned from the Racecourse in Carlisle, crews heading out to tackle two runs of the Newcastleton stage which would be separated by a regroup, acting as a Ceremonial Start in Newcastleton, and meaning that the second run would take place in dusk / darkness.

The opening run over the 7-mile test proved to be a real learning experience for Nick as the car wandered on the fast straights and struggled for grip on the corners, all due to the characteristics of the terrain. Nonetheless the pair posted the eighth quickest Fiesta time, but knew they needed to up the pace. This they would do on the second run, going a second a mile quicker despite the disappearing light, finishing the opening leg in 23rd overall and eighth in the Fiesta’s.

Saturday meant an early-o’clock start, and with the continued hot weather it was going to be a long and tough day for the crews, a real test of concentration throughout. Nick and Robert Graham & Co Quantity Surveyors-supported Fagg were confident they could up their pace from the previous day and hope to move up the field.

Over the opening loop of four stages they did just that, climbing the leaderboard to 18th overall, but more importantly to fourth in the Fiesta series, as their rivals hit troubles and they stayed in the clear while continuing to improve their pace, reaching service with no problems to report.

On conclusion of the Stage 10 Chirdonhead test, Nick and Rob has been able to close the gap to just five seconds to third placed Osian Pryce and Iestyn Williams, making a podium finish a reality for the third event in a row.

It nearly all come to nought though, as just one mile from the end of that test, they were caught out on a fast left hander heading towards a chicane. The back end of the car broke away and as Nick brought it back into line they were carrying too much speed. They bounced through a ditch as a result, leaving the car pointing the wrong way. Fortunately the issue was quickly rectified with little or no damage, and the crew were on their way.

Despite the moment, they maintained the attack on Pryce, snatching third spot on the first of the final loop of three stages, just five seconds separating the two crews. They extended it eventually to 25 seconds, Nick and Rob taking their second podium in the Fiesta SportTrophy this year, a result that sees them maintain there second position in the series points table behind the vastly experience pairing of Craig Breen and Gareth Roberts..

“There is no doubting that this event has been the toughest to date for Nick and I, the nature of these stages is totally different to anything Nick has tackled before. He has learnt on each of them and the goal of reaching the finish achieved”, explained Rob. “We said before the event it was going to reward those that did finish and so we are very happy gain another podium in the Fiesta’s and look forward to the next round”.

In addition to the Fiesta result the pair were also sixth in Formula 2 classification in the British Championship, a result that sees them move up to joint fourth position while holding onto 14th overall in the main series.

There is little rest for Rob, who immediately turns his attentions to this weekend’s Manx Telecom Rally, his home round of the REIS MSA Aspahlt Championship. He will contest the event with Manchester’s Stephen Simpson in his Mel Evans prepared and run Subaru Impreza S12.

Rob is supported in 2011 by Cannon Tech. (Scotland) Ltd (, Robert Graham & Co Quantity Surveyors, Synergy IT (, Cable Design Services (, Holton Homes (, Nicky Grist Motorsport ( and Fastime Stopwatches (