Rallying: Rowe in hungry mood

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The Independent Online
MARTIN ROWE will start the Pirelli International Rally in Carlisle today knowing he has made the perfect start to the defence of his Mobil 1 British Championship title.

However, the Renault driver was not satisfied with the way he launched the new campaign at last month's Vauxhall Rally of Wales. Rowe could have done no more in championship terms than collect the maximum 32 points on offer as he again proved himself the man to beat among the two-litre class competitors. But his performance in the Welsh forests was only good enough for second place overall, with David Higgins winning the event in a Subaru which is not eligible for the main championship.

Rowe admits that taking an instant lead in the title race would have been all the sweeter if he had been stood on the top step of the podium in Wrexham. The 27-year-old from the Isle of Man is keen to extend his advantage in the quest for the domestic crown by outpacing all his rivals in Cumbria this weekend.

"I was relieved to come out ahead of my championship rivals in the first round of my title defence," said Rowe, whose team-mate Tapio Laukkanen was his closest challenger in Wales. "It was a very rough event because everyone was being hit by punctures, and it could be the same again on the Pirelli. But I want an overall victory as well as to win the Formula 2 Category this time."

Last year's Pirelli event was a double-header with the two days of action each comprising a separate round of the championship. Rowe won the first leg to extend his winning sequence to three consecutive events in the series. The second leg went to the Seat driver Gwyndaf Evans, who is unhappy that the double-header format has been scrapped this year.

Evans is also not in favour of every round in this year's championship contributing to a competitor's points tally. The Welshman preferred the previous scoring system in which drivers discounted their worst result. He has already become a victim of the new method - failure to finish in his home event left Evans 32 points behind his arch rival Rowe. In fact, the Rally of Wales was a disaster for Evans and the whole Seat team, as they suffered mechanical problems with all their four cars virtually from the outset.