Asphalt Asides 2015 – Issue 2

The IMGold Manx National Rally

Pritchard Manx15Having had very little seat time in his Ford Focus WRC in the intervening twelve months, Jason Pritchard returned to the IMGold Manx National Rally, the second round of the REIS MSA Asphalt Rally Championship, to take back-to-back victories on the event. Also for the
second year running, the Builth Wells driver was assisted in his endeavours by the retirement of Paul Bird from top spot with four stages to go!…

The 35th running of the Manx National Rally was blessed with a virtually full entry (121), which not only included the winners of the event for every year since 2008, but also featured 50 Asphalt Championship registered crews.

Split into its customary two legs, rain had been promised for the Friday evening – and, yes, the forecasters were right! At least tyre choice was less of a lottery but, even so, the conditions were challenging, to put it mildly! Nevertheless, for the sixth time in the past seven years, Paul Bird went to bed as rally leader, having taken almost a minute out of Pritchard in the six stages completed.

Saturday morning dawned dull and grey but, wouldn’t you know, by the time the rally reached its conclusion at the TT Grandstand, the sun was shining! After almost 110 miles of stages on the closed public roads on the Isle of Man, Pritchard’s winning margin was a minute from runners-up Damian Cole/Jack Morton (Ford Focus WRC). The Manx is the one round of the current Asphalt Championship calendar that Cole has not won but, having finished 3rd on several occasions, this was to be his best result yet.

Having retired from the opening round on Epynt, Steve Simpson/Patrick Walsh desperately needed a finish to move their season forward. Despite struggling with their Impreza WRC over the opening stages, daylight – and somewhat less water! – brought fresh impetus to their challenge, and they began climbing the leaderboard. An eventual 6th overall but, more importantly, 3rd in the points was just what the doctor ordered!

Mauger Manx15Arriving on the Isle of Man as Asphalt Championship leader, Simon Mauger knew he was up against it if he was to maintain top spot. He’s obviously got the hang of his Metro 4M4 but this was his first visit to the Manx since 2008!… Whatever, the Bicester driver, accompanied once again by Jon Hawkins, was never out of the Top Ten – 7th overall sees him maintaining his position as top dog – just! He is now on equal points with Cole, but gets the nod by dint of his maximum on Epynt.

Alex Laffey’s Fiesta R5+ was just 1.6s adrift of Mauger by the end, while David Tinn’s progress over the last twelve months in his MEM Proton Satria can be measured in terms of ‘halving’ his 2014 Manx result to 10th this time. He and Giles Dykes had conducted an extensive recce and their dedication to duty paid off. The Impreza of David Hardie/John McCulloch was just behind them, while David & Mathew White won Group N in their version.

The Citroen DS3 of Andrew Hockridge/Aled Edwards was the first two-wheel drive Championship-registered car home, taking maximum points in the AB MOTORSPORT FRONT-WHEEL DRIVE CHALLENGE.

Next up were Royston & Bridge Carey in their Renault Clio – now Bridge is only 17-years old and, not surprisingly, this was his first competitive visit to the Isle of Man. To come away with a class win and a finish just outside the Top Twenty is something of which he (and
his dad!) can be duly proud. For his efforts, Bridge was awarded the JOHN HORTON MOTORSPORT MANAGEMENT ‘STAR PERFORMER’ TROPHY at prizegiving in the Villa Marina on the Saturday evening.

Evans Manx15aThe Escort MkII of Paul Evans, as driven recently by Ari Vatanen(!), came out on top in the MILLINGTON REAR-WHEEL DRIVE CHALLENGE. Ian Kenvin/Phil Williams (Escort MkI) were just 14s behind him, with Martin Hodgson/Tony Jones (MkII) taking third.

Having ‘defected’ to RWD from their class-winning Nova, Darren & Sue Underwood’s Escort G3 was much closer to the leaders than it was on Epynt – they finished 30th from a start no. of 70, and previous RWD Challenge winners, Richard Felgate/Mark Mason, were next in their trusty BMW M3.

N.B. At the time of writing, John Indri/Peter James have protested their exclusion from the IMGold Manx National Rally and, should they be successful, both the overall and Millington RWD Challenge finishing order/points will alter accordingly.

Other class winners from both the National ‘A’ & ‘B’ events, which ran concurrently over exactly the same route, included Timmy & Cliona Collins (GpN Mitsubishi Lancer EVOX) which finished 35th on aggregate, Barry Renwick/Steve Dargan (VW Polo) and David  Earthy/Maria Rayner (Citroen C2R2 Max).

The IMGold Manx National Rally was the first asphalt round of the inaugural BTRDA RALLY CHALLENGE featuring a calendar of seven events taken from both the MSA Asphalt Championship and the BTRDA Rally Series. Damian Cole and Jack Morton’s second consecutive scores put them to the top of the table, ahead of Ash Slights (Driver) and Patrick Walsh (Codriver). The next round is the Nicky Grist Stages in mid-July before returning to asphalt on the Tyneside Stages over the first weekend in August.

Callum Black/Paul Wakely’s attempts to improve on their standing after the Somerset Stages came to nought when their Citroen DS3 ground to a halt with throttle sensor failure three stages from the end.

TO FINISH FIRST, (well, you know the rest!..)

OK, so we already know that Paul Bird retired from the lead of the event but, as is always the case on an event of the magnitude of the Manx, he was not alone! The Imprezas of Simon Bowen/Richard Robinson and Bob Fowden/Ashley Trimble both succumbed to
gearbox failure on Friday evening and, whether it’s wet or dry, transmissions are subjected to quite a hammering. The Lancer EVO9 of Rob Tout/Dylan James didn’t make it back to the Grandstand at the end of the first leg, while Ian Barnard’s Nova and the Escort Maxi of Kev Monaghan/Chris Purvis were both sidelined by driveshaft failures.

Having made all the necessary arrangements to participate in an event like the Manx, retirement is always a bitter pill to swallow. Although not Championship-registered, spare a thought for Welshmen Arwel & Harold Jones who, having survived the rigours of scrutineering, were forced to call it a day when the their Escort’s oil pump drive belt snapped on the short distance from the service area to
the start – and they didn’t have a spare….

It is common knowledge that some fuel testing, at the behest of the MSA, took place at the conclusion of the IMGold Manx National Rally. Consequently the points tables, which have already been circulated, will necessarily remain PROVISIONAL until the outcome is known.

Braving the weather conditions to capture the goings on on the Manx, Wayne Goldring and the team from Special Stage were present in force and are currently editing the footage in time for the programme’s initial broadcast on Motors TV at 8.00pm on Friday 22nd
May. Recordings will be available shortly afterwards on the Championship website:

Round 3: ALMC STAGES (5th July). A pro-active PR campaign by the organisers has led to a great deal of interest in the ALMC Stages Rally, such that we are hopeful of a strong Championship presence in Ireland. The event is, once again, based at the Castle Arch Hotel in Trim, Co Meath and further details are available from

Whilst the MSA directive on event seeding doesn’t directly affect events in the current Asphalt Championship, their recently-announced ‘Rally Spectator Safety Drive’ certainly does. The extra responsibilities, outlined therein, will serve to put even more pressure on event organisers – often just small groups of people – and, in order to assist them, please put your entries in as soon as possible. The cost of
staging events is considerable and any uncertainty over the level of entries will just add to their problems. With just six events in the calendar this year, we don’t want to lose any through a lack of entries at the closing date….

Andrew Haill

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