Impreza pair Rowledge and Stewart leave it late to claim Challengers victory
Challenger Stages 2016
Organiser: Bournemouth and District Motor Club When: November 20 Where: Bovington Camp, Dorset Championship: ASWMC Sealed Surface; ACSMC Tarmac Stages: 6 Starters: 61
A last-stage charge allowed Kevin Rowledge and co-driver Michael Stewart to overhaul long-time leaders Andy Vey/richard Fletcher to win the inaugural Challenger Stages by six seconds.
In Rowledge’s first rally for more than three years, he and Stewart dominated the rally’s second half in a Subaru Impreza S12B – setting three fastest times in a row to hunt down Vey’s Mitsubishi Lancer E4 in the closing miles of the event.
Overnight rain drained steadily from the course but left damp patches, especially on the approaches to chicanes. Vey, a wet weather specialist, set the early pace, leading Ross Daniels/paul Mankin and Mark Welch/andy Hollingham (both Imprezas). Eian Pritchard and Steve Mcphee gave chase to the leading three cars in their Ford Focus WRC early on, having recovered from a first-stage spin. Slightly further back, the Ford Escort Mk2 of Geoff Bennett and John Billett – sporting a new paddle gearshift – provided a strong challenge to the 4WD cars in sixth.
But the afternoon stages became a Rowledge benefit as he leapfrogged his rivals one by one.
The result hinged on the penultimate stage; Rowledge went fastest while Vey spun approaching a chicane and lost 13 seconds. The Impreza driver then went 7s quicker on the final run to clinch victory.
Bennett continued his strong pace, surviving a late-day alternator problem to take third. Pritchard finished fourth despite a time-consuming overshoot at a chicane, while fifth- placed Daniels lost time after fitting dry weather tyres too early.
Welch fought back from a stage-three spin to finish sixth, 5s ahead of Tim Self/ Nick Vigors (Impreza) who struggled with a persistent anti-lag problem. Results 1 Kevin Rowledge/ Michael Stewart (Subaru Impreza S12B) 41m21s; 2 Andy Vey/ Richard Fletcher (Mitsubishi Lancer E4) +6s; 3 Geoff Bennett/john Billett (Ford Escort Mk2); 4 Eian Pritchard/ Steve Mcphee (Ford Focus WRC); 5 Ross Daniels/ Paul Mankin (Impreza); 6 Mark Welch/andy Hollingham (Impreza); 7 Tim Self/ Nick Vigors (Impreza B13); 8 Ray Read/ Stuart Anderson-peters (Audi Quattro); 9 Jerry Bailey/ Graham Lacey (Escort RS); 10 Ben Parker/alf Chanter (Honda Civic). Class winners David Cooper/james Cooper (MG ZR); Bryan Whale/ Steve O’leary (Vauxhall Nova); Bailey/ Lacey; Bennett/ Billett; Rowledge/ Stewart.