RALLYING: Rowe and Evans in title duel

MARTIN ROWE and Gwyndaf Evans meet in a head to head showdown at the Manx International Rally starting today, with this year's Mobil 1 British Championship title the prize awaiting the victor. The pair, who have dominated the 1998 series, winning every round between them, start level on points and knowing whoever gains the better result becomes the champion.

Rowe has yet to be headed in the standings so far this season, having taken an early lead by winning in Wales. But Evans came back in the second half of the campaign and drew level after victory in the last round in Ulster. The Welshman has made an excellent start to his career with the SEAT team, whom he only joined last autumn, whereas Rowe is in his second full year with Renault and has much greater experience of the car he drives.

Another advantage held by Rowe is that he will be competing on home soil on the Isle of Man - and gained his maiden triumph in this event last year. On that occasion, he and Evans went into the rally as two of five drivers with a chance of claiming the British title.

Evans' hopes were ended when he crashed out on the second day, and even Rowe's success did not prove enough as the runner-up Mark Higgins pipped him to the title. However, that still rates as a psychological boost for Rowe.

"I'm looking forward to a great challenge," Rowe said. "And it certainly makes a difference to drive in front of your home crowd." Rowe, 27, is attempting to win the championship for the first time but Evans wants to regain the title he won in 1996 when driving for Ford.

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