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Action-packed day thrills the crowds

Ian Warren joined the Vaucluse Raceway roll of honour on Saturday (May 19) with victory in the Group Winners Handicap KnockOut Final, which brought an action-packed Red Bull International RallySprint to a floodlit close just before 9.00pm; in the previous 11 hours, there had been more than 70 qualifying runs and 45 head-to-head races.

Fastest time of the day was recorded by Trevor 'Electric Micey' Manning (Shell V-Power Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII); already the lap record-holder with a time of 2m 01.88s set in 2005, Manning set a mark of 2m 07.56s for the revised circuit, which now includes a chicane constructed from tyres at the southern end of the centre straight.

Driving his MQI/Subzero Services Ltd/Details Car Valet Inc Peugeot 206, Warren had been on form all day, defeating Danny Williams (Ford Fiesta) in his heat, then William Branch (Toyota Corolla) in the final to win Modified 6. Before meeting Jonathan Still in the Handicap Final, he had dismissed Scotland's Kenny Hall (Opel Corsa) and Geoffrey Ullyett (Nissan) in his quarter- and semi-finals.

'Stillo's path to the final in his Red Bull/Hitachi Power Tools BMW M3 started with wins over the MkII Ford Escorts of Welsh visitor Robert Dick and Andrew Jones to clinch the SuperModified 11 Group; in the quarter- and semi-finals of the Handicap, both his opponents recorded non-finishes - Sean Gill's Suzuki Swift locked up and ground to a halt at the start of its second lap, while Manning made a rare error and took the wrong line through the chicane. But the tables were turned in the Final, Still succumbing to pressure from Warren.

Manning set his fastest time in a thrilling Modified 8 final, in which he was pushed all the way by Paul 'Surfer' Bourne (BF Goodrich/Plus Subaru Impreza WRC), on his first visit to Vaucluse this season. These two had been evenly-matched all day, their qualifying times only one-hundredth of a second apart, although they had both been beaten in qualifying by England's Kevin Procter.

Driving his recently-acquired ex-works Hyundai Accent WRC, Procter was five-hundredths quicker than the local aces, so fireworks were expected in Modified 8; combined with Production 4, there was a record four-wheel-drive entry for the St Thomas facility of 12 cars.

Procter was to be disappointed in the Group Knockouts, however; running against fellow-countryman Dave Bellerby, he picked up a puncture in the Procters Coaches/ITC Accent, so was eliminated in the quarter-final. Bellerby, who went on to press Manning hard in the first semi-final, won the Pig'N'Likka Driver of the Day award for his storming performance in the ex-Procter Ford Sapphire Cosworth.

Manning won his quarter-final encounter with Kirk Watkins (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo V), while Bourne beat an impressive Brett Clarke, who had rapidly got to grips with his new Evo 6.5. The other quarter-final was won by Roger Hill (Toyota Celica GT4), after another notable driver on the day - Martin Atwell - picked up a puncture on the Evo III RS he was sharing with its owner, Scotland's Graeme Finlayson. Having not competed regularly for four years, Atwell had soon got back in the groove, and was recording good times in the much older car.

Hill fought manfully with Bourne in the other semi-final, but Bourne prevailed to win his place against Manning in the Group final. Another thriller was the third-place run-off between Bellerby and Hill, the local Toyota driver beating the Englishman by a nose.

Three Groups were won by overseas visitors - Frans Verbaas (Opel Astra Sport) from Holland claimed Production 3 and Scotland's Kenny Hall (Opel Corsa) Modified 5, while Steve Ollivierre from St Vincent laid down some markers for next weekend, winning Production 4 in his Evo VIII and setting the sixth-fastest time of the day. He also might have won his Handicap quarter-final against Manning, but for two very impressive 180 degree spins.

The other Group winners were Neil Barnard (Suzuki Ignis Sport), who withdrew before the Handicap, and Greg Cozier (Ford Escort RS2000), who handed his place in the Handicap to runner-up Adrian Linton (Vauxhall Astra GSi) to celebrate the 13th birthday of Linton's son Dominic.

There were fewer casualties this year than last, although they started earlier in the day, when Dane Skeete rolled his Peugeot 106 approaching the Hyundai bridge on his first qualification run; although he was uninjured, the car did not continue. England's Paul McMullen did the same thing during the second runs and, although he reappeared in the third runs with some bodywork missing from his new Suzuki Swift, he did not go on to race. In the KnockOuts, Andrew Skeete's sometimes-wayward Mitsubishi Lancer did its best to climb the concrete divider on the startline straight - Skeete did well to keep it under control, but suspension damage meant he could not race again.

The Red Bull International RallySprint was the third and final round of the Vaucluse Raceway RallySprint Cup and a round of the BRC Driver's Championship. It was organised by the Vaucluse Raceway Motor Sport Club and sponsored by Red Bull.

Remaining key dates for Barbados Rally Carnival 2007
Thursday, May 24 - Rally Barbados 2007 shakedown
Saturday, May 26 - Rally Barbados 2007, day 1
Sunday, May 27 - Rally Barbados 2007, day 2
Monday, May 28 - Rally Barbados 2007 prize-giving
- The Boatyard

For further information:
e-mail - robin@bradfax.com; web site - www.barbadosrallycarnival.com

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