Rally rivalries renewed


Friday, November 30, 2018

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The island's top rally teams will be tackling the Richard Stewart Memorial Rally Jamaica 2018 tomorrow and Sunday in the Tru-Juice o rchards in Bog Walk, St Catherine.

“There are 17 confirmed entrants to this year's staging, comprising of 15 local teams and two overseas teams,” Marcia Dawes, event manager, told the Jamaica Observer's Auto magazine.

The gravel-racing action begins at 8:30 am at the Trade Winds Citrus factory and will use the New Works and Mickleton loop of stages in the area. On day two, Rally Jamaica will switch over to Bybrook and Wakefield for a running total of 24 stages.

With a Bajan and Trinidadian team in the mix, the real focus of Rally Jamaica 2018 is expected to be the battle between the four Jamaicans who took part in last year's see-saw result which ended with Fraser McConnell and Peter Clarke as overall winners.

“I am very excited to get back behind the wheel of my KIG/Tru-Juice sponsored Subaru and put on a show while keeping it fast at the same time,” McConnell said.

Currently off the island, the defending rally champion added he's keen to have back-to-back victories and has been travelling back from overseas when possible for testing as he believes preparation is the key to win.

“When backed by a team as professional as NG Racing, it's hard to expect anything other than a perfect car. And that is what we are bringing to the table this year, perfection.”

Another prepared driver is Kyle Gregg. Gregg was out of contention on the first day of that event due to mechanical failure.

“After winning in 2014, the last three years have been gruesome with retirements. This year we won't be trying to win every stage, but to maintain the pace. We have been unbeatable all year, so we know we can win. It's two long days of rallying. I have to be mentally prepared and fit as they have extended the number of rally stages,” Gregg explained.

The new approach isn't the only thing new in Gregg's team as this year he heads into the rally without long-time co-driver Hugh Hutchinson. He'll be joined by Marcia Dawes.

“Joining me in the co-driver's seat will be Marcia Dawes. She has been around motorsport for years and has a lot of co-driving experience. She is very excited and I think we should be a strong team. It's nice to have someone new bringing excitement and motivation,” he said.

Providing even more motivation for victory is Gregg's aim to take the Driver's Rallysport Club's (DRC) Triple Crown: the Sprint, Rally and Driver's championships.

“In regards to the Overall Drivers Rally Championship, I am currently leading, but I'm fully focused on being Rally Jamaica Champion as this is the bragging rights event.”

When Gregg stumbled in 2017, it was Joel Jackson who moved in for a shot at the win only to suffer mechanical issues that set him back to a second-place finish.

“Our plan is to win, but we're aware of the fact that any of the JN8 class guys can win, as seen last year,” Jackson said.

A host of problems earlier this year meant that his Subaru Impreza WRX STI has sat out most of the rally and sprint season, but Jackson revealed the time has been spent refreshing the car.

The fourth and final piece in the dramatic scrape for victory in 2017 was Timothy Stewart, who took over the lead for a short time, only to roll out of the rally. Like Jackson, his car has been missing in action for most of the season only appearing at the last DRC Sprint, having been returned to the island from an overseas refresh.

“Winning the Richard Stewart Memorial Rally Jamaica would be an honour! The rally has been named in my grandfather's memory and it would mean the world to me to come out on top of the podium. This is what we have strived to achieve over the last three years of owning the car,” Stewart said.

Like McConnell, he has been out testing to dial in the car for this weekend's rally.

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