Marty McCormack and Phil Clarke took sixth place overall on the International Rally Isle of Man, extending their lead of the MSA British Rally Championship's C2R2 Cup with victory in the one-make series.
The eventual 58sec winning margin over Championship rivals Jason Pritchard and Andrew Edwards couldn't have been predicted early in the 180 mile event though. After the first stage was stopped, eleven seconds separated the four Citroën Racing Trophy crews at the finish of SS2, Kella.
Mark Gamble and Steve Link took the early initiative, contesting their first event with the full C2R2 Max kit engine. Andrew Hockridge/Rich Mills were only 5.5 seconds down, but Pritchard and McCormack were by no means out of contention in third and fourth places respectively.
Despite having a soft brake pedal, Pritchard set a stunning stage three time and leap-frogged to the front, demoting Hockridge to fourth. The driver of the distinctive red and blue Citroen admitted he and Mills had run out of time during the recce though, only managing one pass over some stages.
With stage four also cancelled through earlier accidents, the battle was re-joined after service, where McCormack began a fight back for the lead. As stage times started to come in it was clear that the Irishman had managed to resolve an earlier front brake problem, closing in on Pritchard's lead to overtake on stage six.
It was a lead that he would not relinquish for the remainder of Friday, pulling a handful of seconds clear, despite Pritchard's final stage push, which left them 21 seconds apart at the overnight halt.
Gamble and Hockridge had an eventful afternoon, the former entertaining the crowds in Castletown when he spectacularly hit a house on the quayside section. The car snapped sideways just after the bridge and he careered off backwards, smashing the rear of the car into a low window lintel. The time loss was inconsequential compared to his stage eight though, when he lost six minutes with alternator failure. Hockridge's misfortune was still greater, the Welshman stopping in the same stage with gearbox trouble, unable to re-start that day.
He did, however, manage the re-start on Saturday, albeit carrying a hefty time penalty, but it did not help his eventual result as a misfire stopped the crew after the day's first stage. The cause was eventually traced to a broken wire which had been trapped by the replacement gearbox, a cruel way to exit the event.
Gamble's exit was more spectacular but nonetheless final. He managed to complete just one more stage than Hockridge, before rattling the car between the infamous Manx banks, stopping on stage fifteen.