Higgins can count on ‘home’ support in Ulster Rally
Published 20/08/2008 | 10:42
In recent years British championship competitors have played only a supporting role on the Ulster Rally.
Their production cars are (usually) no match for the big WRC machines of Ireland's leading drivers when the Irish Tarmac and British championships combine on events like the Jim Clark Rally, the Rally Isle of Man and, of course, the Ulster International.
True, Mark Higgins won in the Isle of Man but that was a one-off result which shocked even the three-times British champion and he has no visions of it happening again on this weekend's Armagh-based event.
But the "secondary" battle for British championship points has taken on a whole new focus following Mitsubishi's ruthless decision to axe Lisburn driver Phillip Morrow from their line-up just ahead of his home round of the series.
Now, instead of the home support rallying behind Mitsubishi it will switch to Subaru, especially as Higgins was instrumental in securing a place in his Atlas TEG Sport team for young Morrow.
The Manxman had his reasons, of course. Not only is he a good friend, and an admirer of Morrow’s ability, but he wanted him on board to boost TEG Sport's challenge for the team's championship.
Ironically, it was Mitsubishi's desperation to retain the team title which saw them "release" Morrow from his contract after accidents in Scotland and the Isle of Man. In his place they have drafted in veteran Welshman Gwyndaf Evans, an Ulster winner from nearly two decades ago.
There's extra spice, too, in the fact that Higgins and Mitsubishi No.1 Guy Wilks, the reigning British champion, are not best buddies - not after some ill-judged remarks by Wilks ahead of last year's Manx round.
Wilks later described it as just "newspaper talk" but nothing gave Higgins more pleasure that beating him in the Isle of Man last month; indeed, he might well have traded his record-equalling fourth Manx win just to finish in front of his Mitsubishi rival. But it was also an important win, propelling Higgins and his Donegal co-driver Rory Kennedy back into the hunt for the British title as well as elevating TEG-Sport to top spot in the team championship.
They are 11 points ahead of Mitsubishi while Higgins has a two-point advantage over Wilks in the drivers' championship.
But neither of them is actually leading the chase for the British title. Almost unnoticed as Higgins and Wilks slug it out, trading win for win, the other Higgins, Mark's brother David, has slipped to the top of the table.