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Pattison favourite at Chris Kelly Memorial Rally

Fri, 17 Feb 2012

Stockport driver Dave Pattison leads a 54 strong field into action for this weekend's opening stage rally of the year, the Mann Construction-sponsored Chris Kelly Memorial event.

Pattison won last year's renewal comprehensively, before crashing out of May's Manx Telecom Rally at The Garey, incurring significant damage to his Ears Motorsport Mitsubishi Evo VI.

Despite this being his first event since then, and having Andrew Marchbank on the notes in place of Paul Whittaker, such is the pace shown on two winning visits to the island over the last 18 months, he starts as clear favourite.

In the absence of reigning Eurocars Motorsport Manx Rally Champions Nigel and Imogen Cannell, the challenge to Pattison will be led by Steve Quine and Richard Skinner in a similar Evo VI. 'Smiler' showed good pace on last Autumn's Manx Auto Sport Stages before gearbox gremlins intervened, and reported additional work on the car since should make the Adore team a real threat.

With Andrew Leece also an absentee, Graham Fargher switches to co-drive for Steve Colley, experience that could be a real boost to the trials great, still really on the rally comeback trail in his Evo VIII.

A runners-up finish on that MAS event was followed by retirement after clouting a bank in horrendous conditions on the Duke Stages, but nonetheless the pace is clearly there, and the longest club event of the year at 106 stage miles offers time for it to shine.

Lancashire driver John Cope, with usual local man Rob Fagg on the notes, continues to chase a long overdue Manx victory in his Subaru WRC.

He's led this rally several times in the past and should be thereabouts, with the distance no problem to the Mull Rally regular.

Amongst the other 'all-wheel drive' crews to watch out for are Tim Collins (Evo IX), the up and coming Sean Kelly (VII) and Dave Corris (Escort WRC) who will hope finally to have the engine management sorted that have thwarted him over the last year.

The two-wheel drive battle looks set to be a real highlight, with giant-killer Martyn Jones (Vauxhall Nova), runner-up on the Duke Stages, heading the front-wheel drive crews, though he'll be chased hard by the Vauxhall Astra's of Stuart Egglestone and Andrew Holmes, as well as the Vauxhall Corsa of James Quirk, re-fettled after its November roll.

The crowd-pleasing rear-wheel drive category pits the Ford Escort's of top historic drivers Connor Corkill and Darren Moon up against highly rated debutant on the Manx roads, Kevin Davies (Escort), Kex Walker's BMW, Adrian Kermode's Porsche 911 and Andy Bird's glorious Vauxhall Chevette.

The rally begins from St John's at 7pm Friday for the opening six stages covering 35 miles, two runs each of Slieu Whallian/South Barrule, Eairy/St Marks/Ballanank and a stage at Balladoole near Castletown not used for 30 years.

The base switched to Jurby on Saturday with a 9:40am re-start for three runs of the Curraghs and Druidale/Sartfield and two over Staarvey/Peel Coast Road, before the finish in Market Square, Ramsey at 2pm.


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