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SONY DSCA hard fought battle, in challenging conditions, saw Matt Edwards & Paul Morris (Escort MkII) go head to head with Matthew Robinson & Sam Collis (Escort MkII) for an event long battle which captivated all who witnessed it. Both went well in the opening stages of Friday night and it was Edwards who held a 58 second lead over Robinson. Catching slower crews had been an issue and probably hampered Robinson by half a minute more than Edwards, but both were set up for 2 further days of battle, including an off, mechanical issues, an epic comeback and a post event exclusion for one of the crews.

Robinson was the earlier leader after going fastest on the first stage and whilst Nick Elliott & Dave Price (Escort MkII) were fastest on the 2nd, Robinson remained in the lead. Then it was the fog of Hamsterley and Edwards was fastest on both, almost catching Robinson who was being held up, on the first run. Robinson then went fastest on one of the final pair of stages. Overnight Guy Woodcock & Graham Dance were a superb 3rd overall in their Pinto engined Escort MkII. Fourth overall, and leading the open rally, were Nigel Barber & Stuart Popplewell (Astra).

Saturday was a long day and it started with Robinson taking 4 seconds out of Edwards on the first pair of stages. Barber went fastest and joint fastest through Croft but Edwards took time out of Robinson to extend his lead out to 61 seconds. Two more fastest stage times saw Edwards pull out five seconds over the next two tests in Hamsterley, then it was off to Kielder and more night time stages. Barber had pulled up to 3rd overall as the fast stages did not suit Woodcock who was being caught by the hordes of more powerful cars.

Robinson was fastest through Shepherdshield 1, then Edwards and Robinson set the same time through Whitehill 1. Edwards then went fastest through Kershope and Ash Park to take his lead out to 75 seconds before service. Disaster then struck for Edwards on Kershope 2 as he slipped off the stage whilst trying to fight a punctured tyre. He dropped to 16 seconds behind Robinson. Ash Park 2 saw a jammed throttle starting to affect Robinson and in one stage Edwards snatched the lead back by 4 seconds. With the problem getting worse and Edwards on a mission, the lead extended out to 44 seconds by the end of day two. Elliott had steadily made his way up into 3rd overall with Barber 5th, still leading the open rally.

The final day saw the battle continue and Edwards went fastest, then Robinson and then Edwards again before Falstone was cancelled. The net result was a three second increase to Edward’s lead. Robinson then did the only thing he could on the final three stages and set fastest time on all of them but Edwards held on to a 34 second lead by the time he returned to the finish in Sunderland. The result was not final though and Edwards was subsequently excluded, (see RAC rally website for more information). So Robinson was the victor by almost five and a half minutes from Elliott. Barber ended up 3rd overall and the open rally winner with Julian Reynolds & Patrick Walsh (131 Abarth) just 7 seconds back in 4th place and top FIA class crew. Completing the top five and taking category 2 were Gregoire De Mevius & Andre Leyh (911). Category 1 was won by Ian Beveridge & Peter Joy (PV544) back in 23rd overall.

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