Jason Pritchard heads a strong Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship entry on the Bet On Aces Manx National Rally (May 11-12), as the famous and challenging Isle of Man roads host Round 2 of the series.
Co-driven by Phil Clarke, the 29-year old Builth Wells driver has won the event three times in a row (2014, ’15 and ’16) in his North Road Garage Ford Focus WRC05, and narrowly missed out on victory in 2013 and 2017 as well. Pritchard got his Championship campaign off to a good start with third on the opening Melvyn Evans Motorsport Tour of Epynt in a Fiesta S2000, and starts the Manx National as favourite for victory – even though he hasn’t driven the Focus WRC05 since last year’s event. And before this year’s two-day rally starts, Pritchard will take the car to show the pupils at Ballacottier Primary School.
Damian Cole heads to the event on fine form, having won the recent Dixies Challenge Rally on Epynt. The six-time MSA Asphalt Rally Champion has never won the Manx National, but has a very impressive record nonetheless, having recorded four podium finishes (including second in 2015) and scoring maximum Asphalt Championship points there twice. He’ll be co-driven by Jamie Edwards in his Get Connected Ford Fiesta WRC.
Adrian Spencer/Matt Daniels recovered from early problems on the Tour of Epynt to come home fifth in their RED Industries Subaru Impreza WRC S11, just 13 seconds shy of a fourth-placed points finish. They’ll be aiming to continue their good Championship start on the Manx, while Bob Fowden, co-driven this time by Den Golding, will be aiming for his first Championship points score after a rare mishap on Epynt in his Comline Auto Parts/NGK-backed Subaru Impreza WRC S11. David Hardie/John McCulloch, Brian Watson/Caroline Will and Chris Ford/Neil Colman also appear in powerful Subaru machinery.
John Cooper Works Mini WRCs are a much less familiar sight on British rallies, but two are coming to the Manx National. Nigel Feeney/Sean Donnelly will be aiming to recover from their early Epynt retirement in their car, while Daniel Harper/Chris Campbell have high hopes of a good result in theirs.
Spencer Sport will run three Mitsubishi Mirage R5s on the event, driven by John Indri/Mathew Smalley, Philip Hopkins/Aled Edwards and Jamie Jukes/James Morgan. Indri finished eighth overall in 2013 in a Darrian T90 GTR and, like then, his Mirage will be in bright yellow livery, Hopkins finished 9th on the Manx in 2017 on what was his first event in a Mirage R5, while the event is one of Jukes’ favourites, and he always goes well on the Isle of Man. In addition to the inter-team rivalry and banter, all three crews are capable of mixing it with their more powerful World Rally Car opponents.
There is a strong contingent of Mitsubishi Evos heading to the Isle of Man, led by the B14 class leaders Wayne Sisson/Max Freeman – who finished an impressive seventh overall on Epynt. Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks, John Clayton/Mark Perryman and Stu Bainborough/Jane Nicol also compete, while Rob Tout/Peredur Davies will be aiming for a class win after their penultimate stage retirement on Epynt. Chris Rice is currently second in the B14 class, and will be aiming to close that three point gap in his Subaru Impreza, ably guided by Charley Sayer-Payne. After a rare non-finish on Epynt, Richard Clews/Hamish Campbell will be looking for a good result in their ITG Air Filters Subaru Impreza, while David Hardie/John McCulloch bring along their Subaru.
There will be close competition throughout the Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship classes. Class B10 leaders Roger Priestnall/Jamie Forrest contest their first rally on the Isle of Man for 11 years in their Proton Satria S1600 and will continue their battle with Kevin Harbour/Dave Tortoishell (Citroen C2R2).
Phil Turner/Ian Meakin finished a magnificent 11th overall on the Tour of Epynt in their Toovey Race Engines/ST Motorsport-backed Escort Mk2. It’s 20 years since Turner had to retire from the Manx with gallstone problems, so he’ll be hoping for a pain-free anniversary as he attempts to extend his B11 class lead. Also great to watch and listen to are the Doroszczuk brothers, Paul and Julian, in their immaculate normally-aspirated Cosworth engine Drockspeed Motorsport Escort Mk2, as well as the hard charging Steve Retchless/Sasha Heriot and Tony Shields/Neil Bye (both Escort Mk2s), and Graeme Sherry/Sinclair Young in a Vauxhall Chevette.
Bill Paynter/Andy Hollingham arrive on the Manx leading the 1400 class in their Peugeot 106 Rallye. Reigning BTRDA 1400 Champion Ed Fossey will island hop from his home in Jersey to the Isle of Man for the event in his Peugeot 208 R2, co-driven by the MSA Academy’s Chris Sharpe-Simkiss. Rhidian Daniels/Tomos Whittle failed to finish the Tour of Epynt, and with a score dropped are out to impress in their Citroen C1 Max, while Lloyd Morgan/Marc Clatworthy will be aiming to get back to their giant-killing ways in their Euro Tech Roofing/Dynamic Fluids-backed Nissan Micra.
Chris Wheeler returns to the Isle of Man for the first time since 2014, and on what will be his first major rally since a big accident in 2016, in a Citroen DS3 R3T. The 23-year old Devon driver will be partnered by Shaun Layland.
Also contesting the event in rapid front-wheel drive cars are Mark Booth/Mark Brew (Honda Civic), Adrian Drury/Cat Lund (Peugeot 106 GTI) and James Nicholls/David Allman (Peugeot 205 GTI), while Richard and Pat Egger (Vauxhall Nova) return after a skiing accident prevented them from contesting the opening round. Dai Roberts might be better known for his co-driving, but he’s pretty skilful behind the wheel too – and he’ll be driving his Peugeot 205 GTI with typical gusto, with Stephen Christian on the pacenotes.
The great variety of cars continues with Geoff Glover/Keith Barker in their rear-wheel drive Astra, Tim Waters and his son Jack in their Renault Clio V6, Michael Farmer/Bruce Lindsay in a Ford Focus, Paul Culverwell/Rhys Stoneman in their Honda S2000 engined Fuchs Lubricants-backed Darrian T9, John MacNiven/Alexander Graeme travel from Oban in their two-litre JAM Drilling Subaru Impreza and Geoff Wright/Chris Sanderson in their Fiesta S2000.
Protyre Motorsport will take over 600 tyres to the Manx National Rally, including Pirelli, Michelin, Hoosier, Hankook and Kumho tyres, and operate a full fitting service for all registered Championship contenders.
The Manx National will be streamed live, with commentary from Howard Davies, on the Special Stage Facebook page, while live radio broadcasts and interviews will be available on rallyfm.net. The live streamed footage will remain on-line for fans to view after the event, while edited highlights of the Manx National will be televised on Motorsport TV, on the Sky/Freesat Front Runner channel, on the Motor Trend On Demand channel and on the Special Stage Facebook, YouTube and App platforms shortly afterwards.
This year’s two-day Bet on Aces Manx National Rally contains 130 stage miles spread over 16 special stages, in a compact route with only 120 road miles. The event begins with four separate stages – Creg-ny-Baa, Druidale, Knocksharry and Baldwins – ran twice on the Friday night, with competition continuing well past midnight. Saturday contains another four stages – Keristal, Parville, St Mark’s and Balladoole – also ran twice. The longest stage of the event is Parville at 12.86 miles, followed by Knocksharry (12.08 miles) and Baldwins (11.34 miles). Signing on, servicing and the finish will be located at the famous TT Grandstand. All marshals who assist on the event will receive a goodie bag and will be entered into a free prize draw to win one of a number of prizes, including Wales Rally GB Passes and rally team merchandise.