Latest News  Solid Manx Stone as Fagg nets Fourth
Tuesday, May 15, 2012

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Tuesday, September 19, 2011

Archive News

By Andre Bernard
 

 

What a difference 12 months makes! Last year’s Manx National Rally saw Isle of Man Co-Driver Rob Fagg fail to make the start of the event. This year, competing alongside Blackburn’s John Stone he would just finish outside the podium places in fourth place.

Contesting the 120 mile, two day asphalt event in Stone’s Legend Fires Skoda Fabia WRC, the pair were never outside of the top nine on stage times or the top five overall throughout the event on which their only issues were to be a stall at the final hairpin on both runs of the 11 mile Parville test on the opening night.

John and Robert Graham & Co Quantity Surveyors supported Rob made a strong start in the excellent conditions, as they set third quickest times on each of the Port Erin stages with Stone commenting that was the quickest he had done on the short town super special.

It was then onto the rally proper and the longest stage of the event, Parville. But despite a clean strong run for almost the entire stage a stall at the final extremely tight and loose hairpin would see them drop almost 10 seconds. A short service followed and with no reported car issues it was off into the 9 mile Braaid and 7 mile Marine Drive stages.

Steady runs through these two saw the crew settle into fourth spot, but the gap to reigning champions Damian Cole and James Morgan (Ford Focus WRC) was beginning to grow, at 26 seconds, while out front it was 2011 and three time winner
Mel Evans (Subaru Impreza WRC) battling it out with two time winner Paul Bird (Ford Focus) for the top spot some 71 seconds ahead of Cole in third.

The final three stages of the long opening evening would be a repeat of Parville, Braaid and Marine Drive, by now in the dark. Steady runs through each and no mistakes bar the unfortunate afore-mentioned stall at the end of Parville, meant they ended the opening leg in 5th position, and passed in the standings by the leading local crew of Andrew Leece (Mitsubishi Evo 6) and Graham Fargher who held a 26.3 second advantage.

Bright skies once again greeted crews as they prepared for the second day and with 12 stages lying in wait Stone and Fagg would set about taking back the forth position they lost, and ensure they  kept ahead of those crews behind.

Glen Roy would see Leece take a further 3.5 seconds but through Maughold the Skoda crew grabbed 6 back and then a further 6.7 on the Axnfell and Whitebridge stages to close the gap to 16.9 seconds as the crews entered the day’s first service. A check over of the immaculate Fabia by the experienced CA1 Sport team ensured the car was in tip-top condition to continue the chase of Leece.

Crews then repeated the opening four stages of the day and with the dry conditions suiting the more modern WRC car of Stone he was able to pass Leece in the standings and take an advantage of 3.6 seconds into the final four stages. It was no easy run to the finish though, including runs over Brandywell finishing at Druidale and Little London through Injerbrek and Baldwin.

Another top five on Druidale was followed by probably the best stage of the rally for Stone and Fagg, third fastest through Little London with a fantastically committed run to now hold a half minute advantage over Steve Simpson (Subaru Impreza WRC) who had passed Leece for fifth. A repeat of the previous two stages bought the crews to the finish at the TT Grandstand in Douglas and with no mistakes and controlled runs, it was a fine fourth overall for John and Rob to get their championship started after the disappointment of the opening round.

“We have had a great run and this more than makes up for the disappointment of the early retirement on the opening round in March” commented a smiling Rob at the event finish. “John has driven so committed and some of that has to go down to the preparation put into his notes on the recce. The car was fantastic and did not miss a beat, only issue being two stalls on the Parville stage both times round, but overall a great event for the team”.

There is now only a short break for the crew as they will be back in action on the third round of the REIS Get Connected MSA Asphalt Rally Championship in just three weeks when they head to Kelso in the Scottish Borders for the Jim Clark National Rally.

Rob is supported in 2012 by Robert Graham & Co Quantity Surveyors, Synergy IT (www.synergyit.com), Nicky Grist Motorsport (www.nickygrist.com) and Fastime Stopwatches (www.astopwatch.com)