Higgins takes fifth Rally Isle of Man to level BRC
Pirelli TEG Sport’s Mark Higgins and Bryan Thomas have taken an historic victory on the 46th Rally Isle of Man, the fourth round of the MSA British Rally Championship.

Higgins’ win makes him not only the most successful driver in the event’s history, the only person to have won here five times, but it puts him and Keith Cronin level at points at the head of the British Rally Championship points standings.

Differential problems for both triple BRC Champion and the 22 year pretender to the crown meant that with three stages remaining, just 5.7 seconds split the pair. Higgins team was forced to remove the gearbox twice within four stages to fix the differential and a broken clutch. But despite the fierce battle, rallying camaraderie shone through when some of Cronin’s army of followers pushed Higgins off a bank after struggling round a tight hairpin with no clutch.

“It has been the most difficult and hard fought event I can remember,” he said at the Douglas TT Grandstand finish. “It was great to win here last year and add Rory (Kennedy’s) name to the trophy, but this is fantastic, especially as Bryan now has four wins, equal to Derek Ringer. Keith is a great opponent and I've been amazed at his pace on my Island!” [AUDIO]

Cronin and co-driver Greg Shinnors were second after one of the tensest events in the rally’s history, eventually finishing nearly a minute and a half adrift after a late puncture took the pressure off Higgins. The whole event had held its breath until the problem, with the lead changing several times and each driver taking ten stages wins apiece. [AUDIO]

Alastair Fisher and last year’s winning co-driver Rory Kennedy were third, the young Irishman not succumbing to pressure from Adam Gould who crashed out in his Pirelli Star Driver prize car on stage 17 of 20. It was Fisher who took the nomination for the 2009 Pirelli award shootout after his excellent first BRC podium place. [AUDIO]

Despite Gould’s accident, Higgins’ result is enough to extend Pirelli TEG Sport’s lead in the MSA British Teams’ Rally Championship. They now lead by 31 points over Team JRM Lico with Revolution Wheels a further 19 points adrift.

Heading the Rally 3 class was Tom Walster with new co-driver Craig Parry, their fantastic sounding Clio R3 keeping the crowds entertained on their way to eighth place in the British Rally Championship classified finishers. [AUDIO] After two crashes in two days, Kris Hall and Robbie Durant were second, but only after a spirited drive from Friday’s Fiesta Sport Trophy winner Craig Breen and Gareth Roberts ended when they retired with just four stages remaining. Third were the distant but delighted Harry Hunt and Kris Killip, the 20 year-old Londoner contesting his first BRC event after moving up from the BRC Challenge. [FST FULL REPORT]

Taking Rally 2 and the C2R2 Cup were Martin McCormack and Phil Clarke in their immaculate Citroën C2, also winning the two wheel drive category, top placed Junior driver and a cheque for €4,000. The prize fund, which is awarded for the Citroën Racing Trophy, comprises €2,000 for the Citroën win, doubled up for being quickest front wheel drive. [AUDIO] Jason Pritchard and Andrew Edwards were the only other finishers in the category, the little R2 cars placed sixth and seventh overall in the British Rally Championship order. [C2R2 FULL REPORT]

In Rally 1 it was the Suzukis which dominated, Luke Pinder and Peter Scott taking the Swift Sport Cup by force too. They held a two minute gap to David Harrison until the final stage, where they took it very easy, still managing to finish over a minute clear and with it a cheque for £500. Honda Civic driver Joseph McGonigle overcame brake problems to take third in R1, relegating Gordon Nichol to fourth. Although the Scot and his co-driver Emma Morrison took highest placed mixed crew on the event and now lead the Swift Sport Cup Championship. [SSC FULL REPORT]

The Diesel Cup went to Steve and Tony Graham in their “Boom Box” Astra. They had fitted a speaker under the bonnet of the ultra-quiet car in an attempt to warn spectators of their arrival, playing a range of classical and house music on the stages. Fin McCaul and Huw Mathias stopped on Friday when an accident left them with just three wheels on their BMW, but used re-start rules to keep their Championship hopes alive.

The next round of the MSA British Rally Championship. the Toddsleap.com Ulster International Rally, is based in its new Antrim home on 21st and 22nd August, from where new stages will effectively present a blank canvas for the continuation of battle for the 2009 title.

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