Im­preza pair Rowledge and Ste­wart leave it late to claim Chal­lengers vic­tory

Chal­lenger Stages 2016

Motor Sport News - - Rally Reports - By Ian Harden

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.

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