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Archive News

By Martyn Parnell

Isle of Man based rally co-driver Rob Fagg got his 2012 season off to the best possible start by taking victory on the opening round of the Eurocars Motorsport Manx Rally Championship, the Mann Construction Chris Kelly Memorial Rally. Competing alongside Bury’s John Cope in the Cope Engineering Subaru Impreza WRC99 they took the spoils by just two seconds in one of the tensest finishes Manx Rallying has seen.

Prior to the event Cope and
Robert Graham & Co Quantity Surveyors backed Fagg undertook a two day reconnaissance of the events stages, and on the first day the stages looked to be in excellent condition, but that was to change. Overnight rain turned the roads into a far more challenging test and as crews took the start there was concern regarding some sections which were now mud coated that would be hard to see in the dark Friday night stages.

It was therefore a steady start on stage one, the four mile blast over Slieu Whallian, which saw the pairing setting only the fifth fastest time, 13 seconds to pace setters Steve Colley and Graham Fargher in their Mitsubishi Evo 8. Another fifth fastest time on the 11 mile St Marks stage saw them move up into joint third before making that place their own with second fastest over the new Balladoole test, although they now trailed the lead by 22 seconds.

Service followed and with no major issues on the Geo-Prep prepared and run Subaru, it was just a routine check over and some minor suspension tweaks before a repeat of the previous three stages.

Despite what felt a quicker run over Slieau Whallian the time would just be one second quicker but an improved more committed run through St Marks kept them in the hunt although now 31 seconds off leader Sean Kelly (Evo 9). That gap was to grow by a further 11 seconds as a high-speed overshoot at the final chicane of Balladoole cost John and Rob time as they recovered, ending the night in fourth behind Colley, Kelly and 2010 event winner Dave Pattison in yet another Evo.

The opening stage of day two would see a different John Cope behind the wheel of the Impreza as he blasted through the 11 mile Curraghs test on

Saturday morning to immediately reduce the gap to top spot to 28 seconds, that lead now being held by Pattison as Colley dropped to third behind Kelly. A run over Druidale saw the gap drop further before Pattison opened it back up after the fast 10-mile Staarvey test.

The crews would then repeat the loop and the Curraghs bought Cope and Fagg right back into the mix, moving up to second behind Pattison as they went fastest by 15 seconds, the gap now just 10 to top spot, but with Kelly only six back in third. With another second taken back over Druidale, they would take the lead on what turned out to be the penultimate stage of the rally, as Pattison hit trouble and dropped time, now seven second back on John and Rob.

With the final planned Curraghs run being cancelled, just the six mile Druidale test left and the top four separated by a mere 19 seconds with no positions safe it was going to be a dramatic finish and that it was. First to complete the stage was overnight leader Colley, recording a lightning quick 5:19. Kelly would be next, 16 down on Colley while Pattison took second fastest although only two quicker than Kelly. As Cope and Fagg bought the Impreza to the stop line the times were checked, had they done enough? 

They had, but by just two seconds as Colley jumped from fourth to second to secure runners-up spot, and beat Pattison by just two seconds with Kelly in fourth a further five back. A margin of just nine seconds from first to fourth, one of the, if not the closest finish in Manx rallying history.

“What a finish, after the time we dropped last night I didn’t think this would be possible but John has driven unbelievably well today” commented Rob at the finish. “The two runs through the Curraghs did it for us and put us in a position to fight for the win and we have got it, only just though with that time from Steve (Colley) on the last stage, he gave it everything. But a wins a win, it’s been a great event and what a finish, let’s hope for more of these.”

Rob is supported in 2012 by Cannon Tech. (Scotland) Ltd (, Robert Graham & Co Quantity Surveyors, Synergy IT (, Cable Design Services (, Holton Homes (, Nicky Grist Motorsport ( and Fastime Stopwatches (