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Splurt to the finish

Observer writer

Friday, October 05, 2018

IN last Sunday's closely contested dexerity meet, Lee Vaz powered through soggy terrain to be crowned winner at Asphalt Assault: Dirt Splurt 2 held at the Tru-Juice Orchards in Bog Walk, St Catherine.

“I feel good about the win. The weather didn't really change our plans. We just had to be a bit more in control because with the mud it got a bit slimy, but we were glad it wasn't raining while we were driving,” Vaz told the Jamaica Observer's Auto magazine shortly after his win.

Vaz started the day strong in his rally-prepared Subaru Impreza STI and was the first competitor to drop a time under a minute. Strong competition was expected from series rival Joel Jackson, but his street-focused Impreza STI wasn't up to the pace. It was front-wheel drive power from rally veteran Colin Whittingham, in his Volkswagen Golf GTI, that put Vaz on notice.

During the event break, the heavens opened up, turning the dirt course into a muddy one, significantly tipping favour towards Vaz's four-wheel Subaru. He ended the Pro class victorious.

“It was fun overall,” he said.

Things looked safe when the top 10 were announced for the championship run. Whittingham, who was second in the Pro class, had left by then. Jackson, the third-fastest Pro, was once again expected to offer up a challenge, but he also missed the run due to mechanical problems.

“The car started misbehaving a bit. The power steering was giving some issues, so power steering is pretty important for a four-wheel-drive car on this kind of track and further damage wasn't worth it. I have to get it home,” Jackson explained.

The remaining drivers all posted times in the two-minute range during the championship run, until another two-wheel-drive car, the Toyota Corolla of Daren Givans, delivered a 1 minute 51 second lap. This put pressure on Vaz to deliver. Pushing hard, he kept the crowd guessing when he accrued 5 seconds in penalties clipping a cone marker and not stopping in the finish box with all four wheels. All present held their breath until the time keeper revealed Vaz's 1 minute 48 second time.

“Once I hit that cone, I knew that it would add an extra two seconds. I wasn't sure where my time would be so I wanted to make sure that I pushed a little harder,” Vaz said.

He also acknowledged the competition from the other front-wheel-drive vehicle close to him, Whittingham's Golf GTI.

“What was definitely interesting was the front-wheel Golf Colin was driving, because with those snow tyres it definitely picked up a good pace.”

Second in the championship runs, Givans was elated by his performance as this was only his first year in the dexterity series.

“I feel real good that I could use a simple car like a Toyota Corolla and put some pressure on some of those big names,” Givans said.

Dimitri Dawkins, Jesse Meikle and Matthew Issacs completed the top-five championship run finishers.