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Manning Second on Escort WRC Debut
Epic season in prospect for motor sport fans

One by one, the ingredients which promise to make 2009 one of the most competitive motor sport seasons in recent history are being added to the mix. On Sunday (March 22), it was the debut of Trevor Manning in the ex-Roger Skeete Ford Escort WRC, in which he finished second to Paul Bourne in the BRC Spring Gravel Sprint.

Driving the Banks/LIME Subaru Impreza WRC S9, Bourne set the pace on the practice run through the 5.3-kilometre course at Searles, Christ Church, stopping the clock at 4m 05.78s, a little under three seconds faster than Roger Hill (Esso/Nassco/Motormac Toyota Corolla WRC) and four ahead of Manning.

The order remained the same on the first official run, with Bourne (3m 58.01s) still ahead, but by a smaller margin, of Hill (3m 59.61s) and Manning (4m 01.46s); the order switched on run two, Bourne's 3m 53.56s now less than a second better than Manning (3m 54.40s), while Hill's 3m 55.81s would be his last recorded time, the Corolla sidelined by power steering failure on the final run.

A last improvement saw Bourne win the day on 3m 49.91s, compared with 3m 52.59s for Manning, who said afterwards: "I was chuffed to finish that close to Paul; the car was fantastic to drive, very well- balanced and I think we can do more, as it currently has a very basic set-up." Of course, this was Manning on his favourite surface, but it certainly boosted the spirits of his many fans.

Another stirring performance placed Neil Armstrong fourth in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI, winning M8-A from Kirk Watkins (Evo V), out for the first time this year. Geoff Noel (Evo XI) finished fifth beating Harold Morley (Impreza N14) and Michael Worme (Impreza STi) in Group N, which had lost its fourth contender during the practice run, when a component failure resulted in Dean Serrao rolling his Impreza N12.

Sean Gill finished sixth, remarking that the gearbox and left-hand- drive of the ex-Manning Evo VIII are taking some getting used to, resulting in occasional missed changes, while his new Simpson Motors team-mate Ian Warren finished eighth and won SuperModified 10; he had vowed to take it steady on his first outing in the ex-Gill Suzuki Swift, as he was still learning the car.

Eleventh overall, James Betts won SM9 with only one official run, after a lengthy effort in the service park to sort an overheating drama with his Opel Corsa; he was just under two seconds quicker than Josh Read, who was learning how to get the best from the sequential gearbox now installed in his immaculately turned-out Toyota Starlet.

Adrian Linton (Vauxhall Astra) finished 12th overall, winning M7 from Freddie Gale, whose Toyota Corolla RunX had a loose engine mount, while the SM11 battle went the way of Jonathan Still (BMW M3), despite losing his final run on new tyres to a broken accelerator cable, after Nick Gill (Mazda 3) had lost third gear at the start of run two.

BRC Spring Gravel Sprint - March 22
Provisional results

1st Paul Bourne (M8-WRC Banks/LIME Subaru Impreza WRC S9), 3m 49.91s
2nd Trevor Manning (M8-WRC All Terrain Plus/Garbage Master Ford
Escort WRC), 3m 52.59s
3rd Roger Hill (M8-WRC Esso/Nassco/Motormac Toyota Corolla WRC), 3m
4th Neil Armstrong (M8-A Hankook Tyres/Gunk/Simpson Motors/Shell V-
Power Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI), 3m 59.15s
5th Geoffrey Noel (P4 Globe Finance/Dewalt Tools/Essco/Sunbeach/
Automotive Art Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX), 4m 06.54s
6th Sean Gill (M8-WRC Simpson Motors/Shell V-Power Mitsubishi Lancer
Evo VIII), 4m 06.85s
7th Harold Morley (P4 Subaru Impreza N14), 4m 11.07s
8th Kirk Watkins (M8-A Abacus Builders/Hankook/Aqua Pur Mitsubishi
Lancer Evo V), 4m 13.31s
9th Ian Warren (SM10 Simpson Motors/Shell V-Power Suzuki Swift), 4m
10th Michael Worme (P4 Cot Media Group/Speedline Performance Auto/
Dingolay/Details Car Valet/Mobil 1 Subaru Impreza STi), 4m 14.68s

Class results

Modified 8-WRC: 1st Bourne; 2nd Manning; 3rd Hill; etc
M8-A: 1st Armstrong; 2nd Watkins
Production 4: 1st Noel; 2nd Morley; 3rd Worme
SuperModified 11: 1st, Jonathan Still (Hitachi Power Tools/Ocean
Spray/Philips Lighting/Crane & Equipments BMW M3), 4m 23.44s; 2nd
Nicholas Gill (Mazda 3), 4m 25.39s; 3rd Andrew Jones (Rexona V8/
McEnearney Quality Inc Ford Escort MkII), 4m 35.01s
SM10: 1st Warren; 2nd Rhett Watson (The Unknown Quantity/MQI
Collision Repair Centre/Toshiba/Office Solutions & Supplies/Corbs
Workz Ford Escort MkI), 4m 25.66s; 3rd Logan Watson (The Unknown
Quantity/MQI Collision Repair Centre/Toshiba/Office Solutions &
Supplies/Corbs Workz Ford Escort MkI), 4m 30.36s
SM9: 1st James Betts (All Terrain Plus/Makita/Champion Auto/Kendal
Sporting/Star Products Opel Corsa), 4m 19.90s; 2nd Josh Read
(Automotive Art Toyota Starlet), 4m 21.84s; 3rd Neil Corbin (Nassco/
Jason Jones/Auto Solutions Toyota Starlet), 4m 25.94s
M7: 1st Adrian Linton (Ravensden/Morris Straker Contruction/Garbage
Gobbler/Crane & Equipment Vauxhall Astra GSi), 4m 20.59s; 2nd Freddie
Gale (Gale's Hatcheries/Nassco/VP Racing Toyota Corolla RunX), 4m
28.88s; 3rd Andrew Skeete (Hitachi Power Tools/RentEquip/Fasteners
Barbados Mitsubishi Lancer), 4m 39.32s
M6: 1st Danny Williams (Ford Fiesta), 4m 37.96s; 2nd Edward Corbin
(Automotive Art/Klark-Odio/Corbins Garage/JVM Signage Daihatsu
Charmant), 4m 39.97s
M5: 1st Sean Cox (Simpson Motors Suzuki Swift), 4m 37.47s
P2: 1st Dane Skeete (Peugeot 106), 5m 13.61s

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