click here »Betts leads after dramatic second day of Rally Trinidad
After Friday’s night’s short sharp shock treatment around the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain, the hardy crews who set off from the Service Park at Tarouba first thing Saturday to tackle the real business of Rally Trinidad 2015, have, without doubt, been reminded of just how tough motor sport can be.
As they moved into the fast flowing stages at Reform and Bronte, everything that can befall a competitor has done so in a dramatic day of Caribbean rallying, with accidents, mechanicals failures, challenges of communication and the weather all playing their part in equal measure. So much so that only eight crews remain in the running for overall awards, having completed all 11 stages so far run . . . there are many others still running after repairs, so Sunday will still be a spectacle worth seeing.
Overnight leader John Powell, as determined as ever to prove that a Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX can take on the best that Group A can offer, maintained his advantage with two stage wins plus two top three finishes in the morning’s first four tests; a broken gearbox brought his charge to an end, however, but he said the crew will try to have the car back out for Sunday.
Rain created some major issues in the Bronte stage, with the surface so slippery that even marshals and the media blessed with off-road 4 x 4s were having difficulty traversing the course; after the morning’s final run through Reform was abandoned, quick-thinking by the Trinidad & Tobago Rally Club and a lunchtime drivers meeting led to the afternoon stages all being run at Reform, two forward and three reverse.
The second Bronte also accounted for one of the potential winners, David Coelho (Group A Evo IX); second overnight and in the top four on the morning’s first two stages, he had already slipped back, outside the top 10 on SS5, then went off in Bronte, later to retire with a suspected broken cam sensor.
With the overnight class-leaders gone, a superb battle was developing between James Betts of Barbados and local Cristian Bourne, both in Group A Evo VIIIs, and last year’s Group N winner, Stuart Johnson (Subaru Impreza N12). All kept in the top six during the morning, and continued to do so in the afternoon – each claimed at least one stage win - Betts trying particularly hard, as a miscommunication of data early in the day led him to believe he had a big chunk of time to make up . . . ‘twas not the case, but it was well worth the watching as he tried to do so!
Others staying with them much of the time included Ryan Pinheiro (Evo IV) and Jamaica’s Joel Jackson (GpN Impreza N14), but both also soon hit trouble . . . err, twice! After securing delivery of a replacement windshield to the Service Park in record time from Piarco, the second shield was then broken as the crew put the bonnet back on; he retired after SS9 with a shelled out alternator bearing.
Jackson, meanwhile, was not the only driver to visit the scenery during the day, his Impreza embracing a tree in Bronte; there were worse problems for Suriname’s Radj Persaud (Impeza N12), who was parked on the stage with problems, only to be hit by Junior Phillips (Lancer GSR). Shortly after Phillips broke all the studs on a rear wheel.
Life was not much easier for the two-wheel-drive crews, particularly the indenigous ones, as the overseas visitors were having a field day! Ireland’s Frank Kelly and Paul Fitzgerald were bouncing around in the top 10 in their Ford Escort MkIIs, doing “just what it says on the tin” in Irish rallying . . . but it was fellow-countryman Shane McGirr in his Toyota Starlet (the only one of the three without the benefit of local co-driving knowledge, his girlfriend Jackie Elliott reading the notes) who was doing the winning!
When Fitzgerald’s engine let go shortly after lunch, which spelled the end of his Caribbean adventure (the first of many, we hope), it left McGirr and Kelly in fifth and sixth places overnight and the only two 2wd cars still in the overall running. The eight were completed by the Subarus of Barbados Motoring Federation president Andrew Mallalieu (N10) and Barbados-based expat Brit Harold Morley (Sti R4), who had both kept their heads while all about them were losing theirs . . .
Twelve more stages face the field on Sunday at the popular Snake and Jack and Jill venues, with the whole weekend building to a fantastic climax at Preysal for the two SuperSpecials starting around 3.00pm. If there’s nothing else in your Sunday diary, you should be there!Provisional positions after SS12:
1st James Betts - BAR / Sean Abed (GpA Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII), 1h 04m 46.15s
2nd Cristian Bourne / Jesu de Gannes (GpA Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII), 1h 05m 13.59s
3rd Stuart Johnson / Lee Quesnel (GpN Subaru Impreza N12), 1h 05m 48.29s
4th Craig Sumair / Brent Russell (GpN Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX), 1h 08m 58.63s
5th Shane McGirr - IRL / Jackie Elliot - IRL (SM6 Toyota Starlet), 1h 09m 26.37s
6th Frank Kelly - IRL / Robert Cadiz (SM6 Ford Escort MkII), 1h 10m 11.90s
7th Andrew Mallalieu - BAR / Sean Gill - BAR (GpN Subaru Impreza N10), 1h 11m 27.77s
8th Harold Morley - ENG / Shiva Maharaj (GpN Subaru Impreza STi R4), 1h 14m 06.91s