37 years old Isle of Man co-driver Rob Fagg moved to
the top of the Ravenol BTRDA Rally Series following
a fourth place finish on last weekend’s second round
of the series, the Somerset Stages.
JR Hinchliffe Plumbing and Heating sponsored Kirk
Michael resident contested the Minehead-based event
alongside Welshman Hugh Hunter in a R S Hunter
Tarmac backed, Dom Buckley RSC prepared Ford Fiesta
R5. The pair were involved in an rally-long battle
for the final step on the podium which was
ultimately decided on the penultimate stage of the
The event is quite unique in the calendar as not
only does it contain a tarmac stage that is run
twice, it is also contested over a total of 14
stages with half of those less than two miles in
length. Due to this there really is no room for
error as any time lost is hard to recover over such
Crews headed away from the host seaside town in
bright conditions which would only get hotter as the
day went on, and from the off Hunter and
MC Locksmiths backed Fagg signalled their
intentions. Top five times over the opening four
tests, including joint second quickest on stage two,
put them into fourth overall on the leaderboard and
in a strong position early in the event. At this
stage the gap to leader Stephen Petch in his more
powerful Fiesta WRC was 16 seconds.
A further two stages remained before the short
service halt and competitive times would see Hunter
and Fagg hold onto that fourth spot, just five
seconds back on another Fiesta WRC of Connor
McCloskey and five clear of Luke Francis (Mitsubishi
Two runs followed up the
unique Porlock toll road and despite a small time
loss at one of the hairpins, Hugh and Rob remained
in fourth, although they now trailed Francis by four
seconds with McCloskey a single sound back in fifth.
The battle for the final podium spot was hotting up
like the weather with six stages remaining!
Stage nine would see the
loss of Francis, leaving Hunter and McCloskey to
battle it out.
Amazingly the two crews
set identical times on stages 9, 10 and 11 to leave
them deadlocked, the WRC driver pulled a one second
advantage with two stages remaining, the penultimate
being the longest of the rally at 8.23 miles.
Despite a committed run
Hugh and Burger Man Catering supported Rob suffered
an unfortunate overshoot right at the end of the
stage costing them time and leaving McCloskey with a
healthy cushion heading into the final stage. A
clean run saw him take third with Hunter and Fagg
fourth, a result they would have taken at the start
of the day against the more powerful machinery.
Petch took the win with Callum Black in another
Fiesta (R5+) taking the runner up spot adding points
to those he secured on the opening round.
“It’s been great to be
involved in the battle with the WRC cars today and
although we were a little hesitant about the pace of
the R5 against these and Callum’s R5+, Hugh has
driven with renewed confidence in the car and we
have shown good pace this weekend” commented Robert
Graham & Co Chartered Quantity Surveyors backed Fagg
at the finish, “The result means that Hugh is joint
top in the drivers’ standings with Callum and I top
the codriver after the opening two rounds. I am
really looking forward to renewing battle on the
Plains Rally in May”.
Before that though Hunter
will make the journey across the Irish Sea on this
occasion as he and Fagg contest the Manx National
Rally on the 5th and 6th May
once again using the Ford Fiesta R5.
Rob is supported in 2017 by Robert Graham & Co
Chartered Quantity Surveyors, JR Hinchliffe Plumbing
and Heating, Burger Man Catering and MC Locksmiths.