As Roger Matthews’ Escort RS1600 exited the final hairpin, and accelerated hard over the finish line of the final stage on Saturday afternoon in front of a packed TT Grandstand in Douglas, he and co-driver Tom Marrott were crowned the 2016 RAC MSA Fuchs Asphalt National Rally Champions.
Paul Willetts, rallying correspondent, told the Ross Gazette: “This is third championship success, but surely the sweetest in a long career for the St Weonards driver.”
Rally Isle of Man was also the final round of the British Rally Championship and penultimate round of the British Historic and Asphalt series. The race attracted a superb 170 car entry, over three tough days on the fast closed roads, totaling some 167 competitive miles, on the beautiful Island.
The duo knew that if things went there way they could wrap up the title here, but had both rivals, Roger Moran RS1800 and Stanley Orr RS1600 breathing down their necks.
The opening leg offered three tests in darkness on the Thursday evening, where Matthews struggled and a stall cost a few seconds on the superspecial stage but they arrived back in Douglas 82nd and 4th in class. "We struggled a bit tonight, Roger needs to eat more carrots," laughed Marrott.
Friday’s leg was a long one offering over 12 hours of competition. Their only real scares came on stage six with a high speed trip through a ditch, but news filtered through, before day two’s final loop in darkness, that both Moran and Orr had retired so the title was theirs to lose now.
Day three was a shorter day, but none the less demanding. The duo did what they needed to do to secure the prestigious title with one round to go finishing 60th overall and second in class.