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Scenes from Rallye Sunseeker 2009

by Gary Parravani
Saturday, February 28, 2009

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Subaru Imprezas filled the top three places in the final results of Rallye Sunseeker and it was the one crewed by WILL NICHOLLS/NICK BROOM that arrived back at the finish in Bournemouth to be crowned as overall winner. The Isle of Wight driver and his Yeovil-based co-driver finished the 13-stage event almost half a minute ahead of 2004 winners ROGER DUCKWORTH/MARK BROOMFIELD, with Irishmen SEAN DEVINE/FRANCIS REGAN not only taking the final podium spot, but also maximum points in the Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship, of which Sunseeker was the opening round.

Nicholls, who was 5th on the rally last year, moved into the lead as, first, the Hyundai Accent WRC of defending champions MARCUS DODD/ANDREW BARGERY went out with engine failure prior to the first run through Somerley Park and then PAUL BIRD/IAN WINDRESS, in a brand-new Ford Focus WRC, joined them on the retirement list with electrical failure. Another former National Rally Champion, STEVE PEREZ, also had ‘one of those days’ – having climbed up to 3rd in his own Focus WRC, he was on his way home before lunch when the car left the road and became stuck in a ditch.

Rallye Sunseeker was, once again, the opening round of the Mitsubishi Evolution Challenge and the Group N specification cars featured prominently in the Top 10. Taking maximum points with 4th overall were DANIEL BARRY/ MARTIN BRADY in their Lancer EVO9, less than three seconds ahead of the identical car of SIMON HUGHES/PATRICK WALSH.

Rounding off the Top Six were ANTHONY WILLMINGTON/ANDREW WHITE after a storming drive in their ageing Lancer EVO6.

SHELLY TAUNT/JULIE MURPHY, from Swindon, were the highest-placed Ladies crew to finish, bringing their Subaru Impreza home to a Top 20 finish,  while TOM WALSTER/TIM STURLA took two-wheel drive honours, and a class win in their Renault Clio R3.     

The first leg of the event, on Friday evening, was curtailed following an accident on the opening stage along the seafront in Bournemouth. A competitor left the road, felling a lamp post in the process. The crew suffered minor injuries and the driver had to be extricated from the car, but it was the exposed electricity cables that rendered the stage unusable. A dry sunny morning greeted competitors as they set off from Canford Arena for the second leg and, apart from being required to treat a spectator with a suspected heart attack on the penultimate stage, the rally emergency services had a very quiet day!

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