Jason Pritchard will start the Manx Auto Sport-organised Masterpixel Media Manx National Rally (10-11 May) as favourite – but such is the quality of the double-header Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship entry that the defending champion, series leader, four time event winner and number one seed will need to be at his very best to take the top spot once again.
Co-driven by Phil Clarke, the 30-year old North Road Garage Ford Focus WRC05 driver led the event from start to finish last year, and has always had an exceptional feel for the fast, narrow and bump Isle of Man roads. But with full Asphalt Rally Championship points awarded after day one and after day two of this year’s Manx National, his rivals will have even more motivation to halt Pritchard’s outstanding run of success.
Six time Asphalt Rally champion Damian Cole started the 2019 season well with a strong second place finish on the Rallynuts National Tour of Epynt, and despite a very good record of four podium finishes (including second in 2015) and two maximum Asphalt Championship points scores, he is still looking for his first Manx National win. For his latest attempt, the Abergavenny ace will be co-driven by Max Freeman for the first time, while his Get Connected/Energizer-backed Ford Focus WRC05 has recently had an engine, turbo and transmission rebuild.
Hugh Hunter won the Manx National in 2017 and returns to the Isle of Man in his recently-acquired ex-François Duval Focus WRC05. Last year’s Manx ended with an IDU electrical problem (in a Fiesta WRC) two miles into SS1, so he and co-driver Rob Fagg will be aiming to return to their winning ways in their P+R Benn-prepared ex-works Ford.
John Stone suffered an early misfire in his ex-Mikko Hirvonen Fiesta WRC on Epynt, but drove well to pick up third-place Championship points. Co-driven by Jack Morton, the Blackburn driver will be on more familiar territory on the Manx, and will be aiming for victory in the Legend Fires-backed machine.
Last year’s Manx National couldn’t have been much worse for Bob Fowden, with an under bonnet fire severely damaging his Comline Auto Parts/NGK-backed Subaru Impreza WRC S11. It took nine months to repair the ex-Petter Solberg car, and Bob and co-driver Den Golding will be keen to put their vast experience to good use as they return to the island.
Daniel Harper was an Asphalt Championship title contender right up until an off on the final round of the series last year, and together with Chris Campbell he makes a return in his rapid Minisport-run John Cooper Works Mini WRC. Chris Ford/Neil Coleman will be out in their ex-Chris Atkinson Impreza WRC S11 and keen to continue their good 18 points Championship start in the Century Hose-backed Subaru. Also appearing in impressive ex-works World Rally Car machinery are Gary Le Coadou/Carl Sorensen in their ex-Dani Sordo Hyundai i20 WRC.
Wayne Sisson scored a textbook third on last year’s Manx National, and such consistently high points-scoring finishes were soon to give him the lead of the Championship. This time co-driven by Neil Shanks, the reigning B14 class champion returns in his AMS Arnside Motorsport Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10, aiming for yet another good performance.
After a great run on Epynt, Alan Kirkaldy/Cameron Fair arrive at the Manx National lying fourth in the overall points table in their Cairnsmill Caravan Park Fiesta R5. Chasing them once again for R5 points will be David Hardie/John McCulloch, who set a good opening event pace in their new left-hand drive Fiesta.
A trio of Spencer Sport-built Mitsubishi Mirages will contest the event, led by Manx masters Jamie Jukes/James Morgan – while John Indri/Matthew Smalley will be aiming to put the turbo issue which forced them out of the Tour of Epynt behind them in their distinctive yellow and black example. Oli Hopkins/Ian Taylor will make their second appearance on the Isle of Man in their Hopkins Motorsport-owned Mirage, although the atrocious weather on last year’s PokerStars Rally means that they’ll have little data or dry running experience to bring with them. Unfortunately Oli’s brother Philip will be forced to miss the event. He was due to drive the Hopkins Motorsport-owned and MacWhirter Motorsport-run Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6, but has been forced to withdraw after breaking an ankle in a horse riding accident.
Last year’s Manx National was the last time that Richard Clews reached the finish of a rally, so the only thing the ITG Air Filters Subaru Impreza driver will be aiming to break will be his run of bad luck, as he once again teams up with co-driver Hamish Campbell.
The exciting B10 class battle between Rhidian Daniels/Tomos Whittle, in their developing Citroën C1 Max, and Adrian Drury/Cat Lund, who had to overcome power steering concerns in their Drury Deliveries Peugeot 106 GTi last time out, will resume. They might not be the most powerful cars on the event, but you won’t see two cars driven more on the limit.
Reigning B11 class champions Paul and Julian Doroszczuk will have a new high-spec normally aspirated Cosworth engine in their Drockspeed Motorsport Escort Mk2, after a major engine rebuild following their Epynt retirement. They’ll resume their close class battle with Phil Turner/Ryan Griffiths in their rapid Toovey Race Engines/ST Motorsport-backed Escort Mk2, who are also looking for their first finish of the season. Geoff Glover, contesting his 101st Asphalt Championship rally in his self-built rear-wheel drive Astra, did finish the Tour of Epynt and, together with Keith Barker on the notes, will be aiming to extend the 10 point advantage he has over his Escort rivals.
Defending B12 champion Mike Pugsley will contest the event in his stunning 1974 Escort Mk1 RS2000, after he and co-driver Marc Clatworthy scored maximum class points last time out on Epynt. He’ll be pushed hard by Jonathan Stepney/Aled Davies, who are keen to record their first points finish of the season in their Peugeot 205 GTi.
Having finished runners-up in the B13 class last year, the father and son crew of Tim and Jack Waters return in their V6-engined Renault Sport Clio. They’ll be up against Oban driver John MacNiven, who contests the event in his trusty two-litre JAM Drilling Subaru Impreza, with Graeme Kermode on the pace notes.
1400s class leader Will Mains/Claire Williams will also be aiming for another giant-killing performance in their WCS Environmental-backed Vauxhall Nova.
All the Manx National Rally stages will be broadcast live on the Special Stage Facebook page. The two camera web-streaming commentary team of Howard Davies and Gemma Watson will be joined by guest commentators triple British Solo Trials Champion Steve Colley and rally ace Osian Pryce.
This year’s Manx National Rally contains 16 stages totalling 133.18 stage miles in a compact and action-packed two-day format. The event starts on Friday (10 May) afternoon with two loops of four stages totalling 64.5 miles and includes Druidale (6.79 miles), The Cronk (8.78 miles), Staarvey (5.71 miles) and Baldwins (10.92 miles). The final stages will be completed in darkness. The event continues the following day (Saturday 11 May), with all eight stages and 68.78 stage miles run in daylight. Action begins with two looped runs around Keristal (3.87 miles), followed by St Marks (13.52 miles), Round Table (13.55 miles) and Balladhoole (3.45 miles). The main service area is at the TT Grandstand, with an emergency tyre fitting service on the Friday night (between SS2 and 3) and an emergency service at St John’s (between SS11 and 12) on Saturday.
2019 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship Regulations and Entry Forms are available to download at: asphaltrallying.com
2019 Masterpixel Media Manx National Rally – seeded top 10
1. Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke….Ford Focus WRC05
2. Hugh Hunter/Rob Flagg….Ford Focus WRC05
3. Jamie Jukes/James Morgan….Mitsubishi Mirage
4. Andrew Dudgeon/Joe Dooley….Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6.5
5. Damian Cole/Max Freeman….Ford Focus WRC05
6. Daniel Harper/Chris Campbell….John Cooper Works Mini WRC
7. Alan Kirkaldy/Cameron Fair….Ford Fiesta R5
8. Wayne Sisson/Neil Shanks….Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10
9. John Indri/Mathew Smalley….Mitsubishi Mirage
10. Stu Bainborough/Paula Swinscoe….Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6
The full seeded entry list can be viewed here.
Manx Auto Sport has a brand new website, with full Masterpixel Media Manx National Rally information available here.