Torrential rain, standing water and poor visibility, followed by a repeat run of those four difficult stages in the dark, made Leg 1 of the Bet On Aces Manx National Rally incredibly challenging, with a large number of retirements and even more reports of multiple major moments. But one crew shone bright in the atrocious conditions – Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke. Having set fastest time on seven of the eight stages, they reached the overnight halt with an impressive 1min 40.7s lead in their North Road Garage Ford Focus WRC05.
Daniel Harper/Chris Campbell completed a good day in second place, on what is effectively only their fourth event in their John Cooper Works Mini WRC. Peter Taylor/Andrew Roughead set fastest time on SS6 and finished the day in third in their ex-Kubica Fiesta WRC – which, having won both the Carlisle and Tyneside Stages and finished third on the Rallye National Le Béthunois last year, was a great performance many had predicted.
A complete lack of grip, suspension setting issues and many massive moments saw Damian Cole in a very uncharacteristic 16th place after SS4. The car’s handling was even worse after service, and after a second wild run through Druidale (SS6) he and co-driver Jamie Edwards called it a day in their Get Connected Ford Fiesta WRC, before the inevitable big accident happened.
Last year’s Manx National winners Hugh Hunter/Rob Flagg were seeded at number one in their Fiesta WRC, but their event came to an early end with electrical problems in their Fiesta WRC two miles into SS1. Having set second fastest time on the opening stage, Jamie Jukes/James Morgan retired their Spencer ECA Mitsubishi Mirage R5 after hitting a chicane on SS2.
Rob Tout recorded his fourth Manx National retirement in five starts after he and co-driver Peredur Davies encountered centre differential problems in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo after SS2 – while what begun as a turbo boost problem on SS3 forced Stu Bainborough/Jane Nicol into retirement in service after SS4 – which was a huge shame, as they had been sixth after SS1 in their Mitsubishi. Chris Wheeler/Shaun Layland are also out, after something on the front of their Citroen DS3 R3T gave way on SS4 and they were unable to fix the problem in service.
It’s a relatively short overnight halt for crews, as Leg 2 starts at 09.00. Saturday’s route contains another eight stages, including Parville which, at 12.86 miles, is the longest stage of the event. The winning car will arrive at the finish ceremony, situated next to the famous TT Grandstand, at 16.00.
Bet On Aces Manx National – top 10 at the end of Leg 1
- Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke (Ford Focus WRC05)….55mins 56.3secs
- Daniel Harper/Chris Campbell (John Cooper Works Mini WRC)….+1m 40.7s
- Peter Taylor/Andrew Roughead (Fiesta WRC)….+3m 37.3s
- Wayne Sisson/Max Freeman (Mitsubishi Evo)….+5m 25.3s
- Bob Fowden/Den Golding (Subaru Impreza WRC S11)….+6m 36.8s
- Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks (Mitsubishi Evo)….+6m 53.7s
- Paul Kirtley/David Jones (Subaru Impreza)….+7m 11.6s
- Donnie Macdonald/Michael Hendry (Mitsubishi Evo)….+8m 08.6s
- Carine Walker/Dannii Matthews (BMW 325)….+8m 15.2s
- John Indri/Mathew Smalley (Mitsubishi Mirage R5)….+8m 35.8s