Mark Higgins won the Manx International Rally driving the Vauxhall Motorsport Astra to victory in the final, sixth round of this year's Mobil 1 British Rally Championship. Success tasted all the more sweeter for Higgins to win in the place where...
Mark Higgins won the Manx International Rally driving the Vauxhall Motorsport Astra to victory in the final, sixth round of this year's Mobil 1 British Rally Championship. Success tasted all the more sweeter for Higgins to win in the place where he was born, on the Isle of Man. This brought his 2000 tally of wins to three, giving himself second place in the Drivers championship.
Higgins, partnered by regular co-driver Bryan Thomas, won 21 of the event's 26 high speed tarmac special stages and along with outright victory went the 2000 Champion Co-driver's title for Herefordshire's Thomas.
"It is great to win my home event and although I knew I couldn't win the championship myself, I'm really glad that Bryan has become the co-driving champion," said Higgins at the Douglas finish on Saturday after three days of flat out driving in the Ray Mallock Limited (RML) prepared Vauxhall Astra. "To go out on a high is a good feeling and just reinforces the Champion Manufacturer title that we had already helped to win for Vauxhall."
Mark's team-mate, Lancashire's Neil Wearden started this renowned toughest round of the championship in a position to win the Driver's title, but when his Astra was sidelined on the opening stage on Thursday evening all hopes disappeared.
"Disappointed is just not a strong enough word to describe how I felt," reflected Wearden. "We were less than one mile into the first stage when the engine stopped and that was it - all over. The feeling was gut-wrenching after trying so hard all year."
With Wearden out so early, all Vauxhall efforts were concentrated on Higgins, who now lives near Newtown in Wales. He put his 10 years experience on the Manx event to good use in crushing Tapio Laukkanen's rally lead during the fifth special stage in the darkening hours of Thursday evening. The fight had been wrung out of the Finn, and reigning champion, in the space of just 11 miles and began Higgins' string of fastest stage times.
When Laukkanen crashed his VW out of the event early on Friday morning, the way was clear for Higgins to drive to an unchallenged victory in the Astra - a victory he consolidated to the tune of an almost five and a half minutes advantage over the Mitsubishi of Neil Simpson.
"This was a rally of mixed emotions," said Mike Nicholson, Vauxhall Motorsport Manager. "We have won this year's Manufacturers title and we feel very sorry that Neil was not able to go for the Drivers title too. The Manx marks the end of another rallying era for Vauxhall. To Mark and Bryan, Neil and Trevor, and to RML for giving the Astra such a tremendous send off in its final year of rallying - you all did a great job boys, thanks."
<pre> Mobil 1 British Rally Championship
Manx International Rally - September 7/9, 2000
1 Mark Higgins/Bryan Thomas Vauxhall Astra 3hr 04m 35.3s 2 Neil Simpson/Mike Gibson Mitsubishi 3:10:06.4 3 Justin Dale/Andrew Bargery Peugeot 3:14:42.3 4 Gavin Cox/Tim Hobbs Mitsubishi 3:16:49.8 5 Nik Elsmore/Jayson Brown Mitsubishi 3:19:59.1 6 Mike Brown/Aled Jones Mitsubishi 3:21:06.4
British Rally Championship - Drivers - Final
1 Marko Ipatti (FIN) Mitsubishi 45 points 2 Mark Higgins Vauxhall 44 3 Neil Wearden Vauxhall 35 4 Tapio Laukkanen (FIN) VW 30 5 Justin Dale Peugeot 28