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Fraser rules Rally Ja 2017

BY RORY DALEY
Observer writer
daleyr@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, December 08, 2017

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LARRY Henriques, Rally Jamaica 2017 organiser, said he anticipates more overseas participation from Caribbean drivers come next year.

The head honcho was speaking to the Jamaica Observer's Auto magazine after last weekend's outing at Tru-Juice's orchards in Bog Walk, St Catherine.

“Several Jamaicans are planning to attend Rally Trinidad in the twin-island republic of Trinidad and Tobago next year. And I expect the Trinidadians will reciprocate,” said Henriques.

Rally Trinidad is scheduled for March 23 to 25, 2018.

It may have been small in numbers, with only 13 competitors, but the two-day Rally Jamaica 2017 was big on action. The occasion was the final rally event for Jamaica's automotive calendar.

“I figured we could have had three or four more competitors, but that's what we had,” Henriques added.

The Rally Jamaica 2017 finale saw JN8 class entrants Fraser McConnell, 19, alongside navigator Peter Clarke, fighting tooth and nail for victory.

“It was always the goal and the dream. Growing up in Bog Walk, watching every rally every single year.... I was up at the crack of dawn, out there before some of the drivers, just waiting for the first car to come out. At one point, it was just me imagining myself in a car one day and then I got into go-karting, and built from that. It's really is a dream come true,” McConnell told Auto.

Driving fast through the stages, McConnell survived as his rivals, pushed by blinding pace, made mistakes. Pre-event favourite Kyle Gregg and veteran co-driver Hugh Hutchinson were out of contention on the first day. An error landed them in a pair of coconut trees.

“That's part of rallying, just got a little mixed up in the notes and it was a fast left over a crest into a right. He forgot to call the right, so we approached the corner fast only to find ourselves facing some trees,” Gregg explained.

Gregg's ability to come back was further hampered by a failed gearbox on the penultimate stage of the rally. With Gregg down, all eyes were now on 2016 Rally Jamaica winner Joel Jackson. The event continued to be a tough one for him as his Subaru Impreza WRX STi suffered mechanical failure.

“We had two broken axles. Who can even account for that? We didn't expect it. When we broke the first one in the morning, it was the first time we'd ever broken an axle in that car, then to break two in one day, it's just one of those things,” said Dmitri Dawkins, Jackson's co-driver.

However, the team's tenacity that gained them the 2016 win saw them holding on for a second-place finish.

As Gregg and Jackson struggled to move back up the order, Timothy Stewart moved into the top stop closing out the first day. On Sunday, the second day, things went upside down literally, as his car rolled over and forced him out of the event.

“It was a great event. I had the best time of my life. It was good to win the first day as it was very competitive racing between all of us. We were switching times from stage to stage, so I can't complain. We had some problems on Sunday with the car putting it down on power and that had something to do with us ending up on our roof,” he said.

The final podium position went to Rally Jamaica rookie Lee Vaz, using the event to gain as much experience as possible for 2018.

“We thought we were going to finish at the bottom of JN8. Our goal was just to make it to the end,” said an elated Vaz.

Thomas Hall proved he was still fast in two-wheel-drive mode, finishing fourth, while Barbados racer Harold Morley completed the top five.

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