Chris West keeps hold of rally title after late battle at Snetterton
- Credit: Archant
Chris West and Keith Hounslow maintain their composure during a tense battle for victory during the Snetterton Stage Rally, withstanding a strong second-half challenge from the Ian Woodhouse/Jason Leaf crew.
West, the defending champion, started by posting the quickest time on the opening stage, but it was John Stones who was his nearest challenger in the early stages until the Fiesta's engine cried enough on the fifth stage.
By that time Woodhouse had his Ford Escort Mk2 singing perfectly and had just displaced Stone from second place by posting the fastest time on stage four, which was a worry for West.
Woodhouse was quickest again on stage five and cut West's lead to just seven seconds, but the leader responded, by digging deep, on the next running of the stage to extend his lead by two seconds with just two stages remaining.
Woodhouse was again quicker than the leading Peugeot 306 Maxi by a solitary second on the penultimate section, which left him needing a nine-second advantage to take victory on the final stage – but he was only able to pull back three, as West's careful run secured him a well-deserved victory.
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The Downham Market crew of Stephen and Jack Tilburn missed out on the podium after an event-long battle with Mark Kelly, who just had a slight advantage over the local crew for most of the day, with Tilburn unable to claw back time lost after being held up by a slower car on the second stage.
There was plenty of local interest in the Class A battle, with series-leading Aaron Rix, from Harleston, finding the well-driven Vauxhall Nova of David McMullan too fast as his rival claimed honours by 50 seconds from Mark Blackmore's Vauxhall Corsa.
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Rix secured third in his Ford Ka, which he had rolled earlier in the season at Cadwell Park, while Cromer's Mark Annison followed Rix home in fourth in his Ford Puma.
Thetford's Johnnie Ellis' event came to a crunching end when a wooden pole pierced the engine bay of his Mitsubishi Evo X while Fakenham's Rob Kitchen overcame a collision with a tyre barrier to record seventh in Class A with Lotus engineer Bradley Howlett the final finisher, having suffered transmission problems on the sixth stage.