Chris Patterson holds nerve to seize glory
Ballyclare rally co-driver Chris Patterson has become Middle East champion for a fifth time. But never before has the phrase "down to the wire" been more appropriate.
Teamed with UAE driver Khalid Al Qassimi, Patterson was involved in a frantic finish to the Dubai International Rally, the final round of the Middle East series.
Trailing the Ford Fiesta of nine-time champion Nasser Al Attiyah after the first leg, they edged their Citroen DS3 into the lead on the penultimate desert stage but by just four tenths of a second.
On the final 26 kilometre stage, Al Attiyah set the fastest time but it wasn't enough. Al Qassimi was just a tenth of a second slower, winning the rally by three tenths and clinching the Middle East title by a single point.
Ironically, Patterson had won the MERC title four times in the past with Qatari Al Attiyah.
There was success, too, for Patterson's fellow Ulster co-driver Stephen McAuley, who was partnering Mohammed Al Mutawaa in the two-wheel-drive division. They led until the ninth stage where they rolled their Citroen but recovered to finish in ninth place and still end the season as Junior champions.
In the Far East, meanwhile, Niall McShea was in second place in the final round of the Chinese championship with four stages remaining. The rally was being led by Australian Chris Atkinson in the new Prodrive VW Golf with McShea's Skoda ahead of the Subaru of Mark Higgins.