In extremely difficult conditions, and with Jerseyman Robbie Hannah in support, it was the first time a front-wheel drive car had won the event in its 36-year history. West and Hannah saw off the challenge of last year’s champions Ross Le Noa and Dominic Volante who finished second in a Ford Escort Mark II, with Mark Kelly and Neil Colman completing the podium in third also in a Ford Escort Mark II.
West and Hannah were in second place overnight after some blistering work in the Friday evening stages, making up a lot of time after Le Noa set the early pace. From there onwards, West and Hannah kept chipping away to victory, but not without some hair-raising moments along the way.
‘It was treacherous out there. Friday night I was scared witless in places,’ admitted a triumphant but relieved Hannah.
‘I’ve been doing the rally for 15 years and it was probably the hardest conditions I have seen.’
While those testing conditions proved too much for former three-time champions Stevie Leonard and Sian Humphreys, having suffered a big smash on Friday night, West was in his element.
‘Chris is quick in the wet and quick in the dark. He’s fearless,’ said Hannah. But a proud West also admitted that seeing Leonard crash out was a stark reminder that the tight Jersey country lanes needed to be treated with respect.
‘We took it fairly steady [Friday],’ the winning driver explained. ‘We pushed a bit in the night, then we agreed the next morning to give another push in the first loop to see if it could pay off and thankfully it did.
‘It has been absolutely horrendous there. So slippy. You’re doing some speeds down those lanes and you’ve got to be inch perfect. Everybody who finished ought to be proud of themselves because all of the cars were pushing hard. I wanted to come here and win it once and I’m over the moon.’
It was impressive enough that West got his car through all the stages in one piece, let alone win. It was even more remarkable that he achieved it in a front-wheel drive – all 6ft 6in in width and barely able to squeeze it through the tight corners on the lanes. Inch perfect indeed.
More in Monday's JEP.