Veteran rally driver rules the stages
The “Sheriff’” still in control of this town.
Roger “The Sheriff” Skeete maintained this season’s winning form when he drove his Subaru Impreza WRC S12 to victory in yesterday’s Valvoline Rally, the first special stage rally for the year. With Stuart Maloney riding “shotgun”, the two took the event with a winning margin of 27.77 seconds.
It was not a easy task, though, as evidenced by the several mishaps, some more serious than others, that the nearly 30-car field had to endure. Having built up a lead of five seconds with three stage wins over the first two runs of Orange Hill, St James and Pickerings, St Lucy, the launch control issue that has plagued the Impreza from time to time kicked in once again on stage five.
With a time 14 seconds slower than his previous run, Skeete slipped to second place behind the Suzuki SX4 WRC of Rally Trinidad winners Neil Armstrong and Barry Ward. They had already pipped Skeete by three-tenths on the previous stage, and now led the Valvoline Rally by around seven seconds at half-distance.
Their joy was short-lived, however, as an accident on the very next stage ended their day. Both driver and co-driver were unhurt and the team reported later that the damage was only to body panels and “bolt-on parts”, so could be easily repaired.
Skeete, therefore, assumed the lead, with Paul “The Surfer” Bourne and his new English co-driver Tom Woodburn now second in the Ford Focus WRC07. Bourne’s day had started badly, with more than 10 seconds lost to a front right puncture on the opening stage, but he was back in the groove by the end of the day.
With the late arrival of a new gearbox forcing Roger Mayers to withdraw on Thursday, the expected battle for two-wheel-drive honours failed to materialize. Josh Read and Mark Jordan (Toyota Starlet) delivered a stirring performance, however, in the top three on seven of the 10 stages, to finish in a well-deserved third place, just ten seconds behind Bourne.
Roger Hill and Graham Gittens (Toyota Corolla WRC), the only WRC-2 crew, finished fourth. Rhett Watson and James Hutchinson were fifth in the BMW M3, winning SuperModified 12, one of the better-supported classes.
Andrew Mallalieu finished sixth, with Nigel Reece standing in for regular co-driver Geoff Goddard in the Group N Subaru Impreza N10, although class honours went to Mark Thompson and Kurt Seabra in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX. They were not classified as overall finishers, having failed to reach the final time control of the day after limping out of SS10 on three wheels.
With seven starters, Modified 7 was the day’s biggest class, although it was quickly reduced by an engine failure on SS1 for Paul Horton (Ford Escort), then an accident on SS2 for Jeremy Sisnett (Ford Fiesta); Daryl Clarke (Honda Civic) was the winner, finishing seventh overall, beaten twice during the day by Edward Corbin (Toyota Corolla RunX), who finished eighth, 29 seconds adrift, and second in M7.
Ninth was David St Hill (BMW M3), who finished third in SM12 behind Watson and Justin Campbell (M3), another to miss out on an overall finish, having failed to finish SS6, the top 10 completed by M6 winner Brendon Mckenzie (Toyota Corolla).
Wayne Archer gave his Martin Stockdale-built BMW 325 a debut win in the Historic class, after early leader Stuart White (325) dropped out for the last two stages, while Eric Allamby enjoyed a convincing win in the Clubman class. Sole competitor in Group B was Harold Morley
in his Porsche GT3 RSR. (RB)