PETROLHEADS from the Isle of Wight and around the UK descended on Culver Parade for long-awaited new motorsport event, the Island Car Centre Sandown Sprint.

After a successful opening day yesterday (Saturday), in which 96 competitors battled it out in front of crowds of around a thousand, who lined the seafront, there was high expectation the competition would crank up a notch or two in quality — and so it proved.

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The event, organised and promoted by Solent, in partnership with the Isle of Wight Car Club, the Motorsport UK organising club, featured a specially designed sprint course along Sandown seafront. 

The course was designed by the Isle of Wight Car Club, inspired by other popular tracks in the UK, and built by Island-based John Peck Construction.

The Isle of Wight Car Club provided most of the staff and stewards, with support from other clubs and enthusiasts.

Will Nicholls, the owner and managing director of main sponsors, the Island Car Centre, in Rookley, was topping the leaderboard going into today's (Sunday) speed trials — by just 1,500ths of a second, barely a blink of an eye.

He has been a consistently successful competition driver over a 42-year career and has been driving his M-Sport prepared Ford Fiesta RS this weekend.

"I don't really do sprints. I used to do rallying, but I'm really enjoying it. We have 30-plus Isle of Wight Car Club members doing it, which means there are about 70 mainland members," said Will, 62, before this afternoon's session got underway.

"At the end of the day, it has got to be good for the Isle of Wight. I know there are issues with noise, but it's only one weekend in the year.

"I was approached and asked if we would like to sponsor it. Being a motorsport guy, I thought I'd like to put something back into it, now I'm retired from rallying — and I'm glad I did. It's been brilliant.

Isle of Wight County Press: World champion Miki Biasion driving out of Yaverland car park ready for his event.World champion Miki Biasion driving out of Yaverland car park ready for his event.

Isle of Wight County Press:

"I've seen people today I haven't seen for 25-30 years, involved in motorsport on the Island, when I was doing it."

The course was built by John Peck Construction on the Island, another big sponsor, and John — a big motorsport fan — was also competing, driving an Evo 5 (Group A) Escort Cosworth.

"There's no money in motorsport. It's a passion, so we needed to get involved, or events like this won't happen. If events don't happen we don't get this," said John, pointing to the picturesque Sandown Bay setting and the many visitors chatting to drivers and owners of the array of impresssive machines, at a busy Yaverland car park.

Isle of Wight County Press: John PeckJohn Peck

Isle of Wight County Press:

Isle of Wight County Press:

"It's absolutely fantastic. It gives everyone a buzz. It's a great location. Spectators get a great view of the action looking over the sea wall, down onto the cars.

"With positive feedback, it will happen again — possibly two or three times a year."

Building the course was a challenge for John and his team.

"All the hay — 400 bails in total — being used on the course was in Freshwater, so it couldn't have been further away. We used three articulated lorries on turnaround, but the farmers were very good — they loaded up," John explained.

Isle of Wight County Press: Will Nicholls, who owns the Island Car Centre, was the overnight leader going into today's (Sunday) racing.Will Nicholls, who owns the Island Car Centre, was the overnight leader going into today's (Sunday) racing.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Isle of Wight County Press:

"Everyone has been doing their bit to make it work, although it was frustrating on Thursday and Friday, with everyone trying to drive through road blocks. You should've heard some of the abuse we had on Thursday, which we didn't need as we do this for nothing. 

"But at the end of the day, this is what we're gettng out of it — a superb event.

"Everyone is easy-going, everyone's friendly and there's no stress. It's a family event and you're seeing people you haven't seen for at least 20 years — because it's the Isle of Wight.

"We need to bring more motorsport back on the Island. There aren't many people who aren't into motorsport. It brings a smile and that's what it's all about."

Isle of Wight County Press:

Isle of Wight County Press: Sandown Sprint promoter, Tim Addison.Sandown Sprint promoter, Tim Addison.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Having one of motorsport's biggest characters competing, two-time world rally champion Miki Biasion, was quite a coup.

Biasion was driving Rally Replay's Group A Lancia Delta Integrale 16V, restored in collaboration with him, to be an exact replica of his 1989 San Remo winning car.

John added: "It's great to get him over here. The mainland drivers will be going back thinking 'what a fantastic event that was'."

For promoter, Tim Addison, a former Isle of Wight tourism chief, the Sandown Sprint has ticked all the boxes.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Isle of Wight County Press:

Isle of Wight County Press:

He said: "It has been frighteningly like our plan, developed over a long period of time. It's looking as we'd hoped.

"The weather has been perfect, which always helps, and we have a full grid of cars — among which is Italian motorsport legend, Miki Biasion. Any rally fan will know his name.

"It's astonishing to have a driver of that calibre at our first event. A proper star of the sport.

"We also have all of the Island's serious drivers, who were available and wanted to take part, and around half of the drivers from clubs around the region and further afield.

"We must have the most picturesque paddock in UK motorsport, with the white cliffs on one side, Sandown Bay, reaching round into Shanklin, and then the red cliffs of Luccombe. It's absolutely stunning.

Isle of Wight County Press:

"We were probably about ten or so marshals down, but it has all been running pretty smoothly.

"We expected to get about a thousand people spectating today. There has been a steady stream of people coming in.

"The nice thing about this type of sport is that fans are really welcome to come and chat to the drivers about the cars they drive. It's very relaxed."

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