Callum Black said that he was going to win the Manx National Rally – and despite it being his first asphalt rally for 10 years, the Brackley driver was true to his word as he and co-driver Jack Morton won the event in their 586 Sports-prepared and Pirelli-shod Pallas Connections Ford Fiesta Rally2.
The 3min 17.9sec winning margin doesn’t reflect the incredibly close and fierce flat-out battle he had for victory with David Wright/Paula Swinscoe – and whilst Black scored maximum Round 3 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship points for coming out on top on the final day two, it was Wright who took maximum Round 2 points for leading after day one.
Having only driven the Fiesta Rally2 on asphalt for the first time on the Manx shakedown stage, Black led the event after the opening two stages.
Wright took the lead on SS3 and when Black landed a little off line on SS4 and filled two wheels up with mud, causing a vibration, Wright’s advantage at the top shot up from 3.8 to 13.6secs.
Despite a brake issue on SS9, Wright led at the overnight halt – and continued to lead after the first two stages of day two. But he couldn’t hold back Black, who drove brilliantly to speed into a 2.6 second lead after SS12. With the pace at the front even hotter than the dry and sunny Isle of Man weather, a mistake by Wright on SS14 saw his Michelin-shod Grove Hill Garage Ford Fiesta R5 break the rear right suspension, forcing him to park up.
“I really enjoyed the Manx National, and that’s half the battle sometimes, isn’t it?” said Black.
“We just got a better feeling as the rally progressed and learned what we could and couldn’t do with the car, and the Fiesta Rally2 was a real privilege to drive to be honest.
“When I came passed David [Wright] and saw that he had an issue it just fried my head for the next two miles, and I didn’t really know how to drive. But I got my head down, regained by concentration and it proved to be enough.”
Pace, patience, and a largely problem-free run were the keys to success for Neil Roskell. The former Manx Rally winner had been fifth at the end of day one, and when others ahead of him hit problems he and co-driver Andrew Roughead were in prime position to benefit in their Michelin-shod ND Civils/Burdens/Witham Motorsport Ford Fiesta Rally2. They had to survive an alternator belt problem and almost put the car off the road on day two, but their impressive run of never finishing lower than second on the Isle of Man continues as they take the lead at the top of the overall drivers’ and co-drivers’ standings.
And the others hitting problems in front of Roskell were Welsh drivers Kevin Davies and Hugh Hunter, who had been in a monumental battle for a podium result. Davies blinked first when he and fellow Carmarthen man Owain Davies crashed their Melvyn Evans Motorsport-prepared Cobra Hydraulics-backed Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 on day two’s opening stage, which forced SS10 to be stopped.
This left Hunter in command of third in his RSH Tarmac-backed Ford Fiesta Rally2, until the Ruthin driver dropped to 10th after losing four minutes on SS11. He and co-driver Rob Fagg fought back to sixth, before crashing heavily on the final stage.
Steve Wood came through all the drama unscathed – the reigning Protyre Asphalt champion finally getting his title defence off the ground with third in his Trailhead Get Jerky-backed Ford Fiesta WRC. Co-driven by Kenny Hull, the Aberystwyth driver admitted to a sluggish start, but once in the groove he never made a mistake and, like Roskell, made the most of the points offered on this, the double header round of the UK’s premier sealed-surface series.
Wayne Sisson made a successful Protyre Asphalt return. Co-driven by Peredur Davies, the 2018 class B14 champion won his class (both Rounds 2 and 3) and took home a big haul of 48 overall driver points in his AMS Arnside Motorsport-prepared Mitsubishi Evo 10.
One of the stand-out drives of the weekend came from Will Hill/Richard Crozier in their Hills Ford Fiesta Rally3. Having finished days one and two 13th and sixth overall respectively, they scored a combined total of 45 points to leave the Isle of Man second in the overall drivers’ and co-drivers’ points table and leading class B14.
The reigning Northern Ireland Junior rally champion Sam Adams enjoyed his first visit to the Isle of Man. Partnered by Michael Johnston, the youngster’s Pinto-engined Escort Mk2 was the top placed two-wheel drive registered car at the end of the event, and he comes away leading the Fuchs Lubricants and OnThePaceNote supported Protyre Asphalt Junior category, the class index of performance-based Ford Escort Challenge and class B12.
Another stunning performance came from Will Rowlands/Emyr Hall in their Ford Escort RS1800. They finished seventh Protyre Asphalt crew after all 17 stages had been completed, and with it leads the BTRDA Historic Asphalt Cup
With a smart new livery, the last thing Darren Atkinson/Mark Twiname wanted to do was land their Haldane Fisher-backed Ford Escort Mk2 in a thick prickly gorse bush, but that’s exactly what they did on SS3. They restarted on day two and enjoyed a much better run, their pride and paintwork scratched but otherwise intact.
Northallerton duo Mark and Andrew Constantine have extended their class B9 lead with two more maximum scores in their CBS Vauxhall Corsa. Simon Hunter/Howard Pridmore had just taken 15 seconds out of Constantine on the opening stage of day two, but their impressive performance was halted when their Kwiktrak-backed Vauxhall Corsa S1400 got stuck in third gear on The Curraghs.
Defending class B10 champion Lewis Gatt took home two maximum scores after he and co-driver Tony Edwards enjoyed a successful weekend in their Gatt Speed Escort Mk2.
Olly Hunter/Matt Daniels have taken the class B11 lead after a double maximum points score in their HES Electrical Contractors Ford Escort Mk2. Just two points behind are the dethroned leaders Michael Harbour/Ian MacDougall (Escort Mk2), while Malcolm Boyd/Brian Stubbs (Escort Mk2) are third. John Devlin/John McCarthy (Escort Mk2) scored maximum class points on day one but failed to finish day two. Geoff Glover/Keith Barker had a good run on day two, having lost time with a puncture on day one’s final test in their Vauxhall Astra RWD.
Gerry Fitzelle/Mark Mason (Escort Mk2) lead class B13 after scoring maximum points on Round 3, while second placed Oliver Davies/Jack Bowen (Adam Hewitt Agri Plant & Salvage Sales Ford Escort Mk2) took top class points on day one. Andy Scott/Ian Robertson had two good scores, despite early intercom issues in their Millington-engined Ford Escort Mk2, while David Cluckie/Ealish Baxter had a good day one in their BMW 325 but retired early on day two.
Archie Swinscoe’s Protyre Asphalt Championship debut didn’t go as planned, as he and co-driver Jane Nicol found themselves minus the front left wheel after the studs sheered on their Rallytech Composites/Asset Alliance Group Opel Adam. They got the car repaired in time for day two and are rewarded with the class R2 lead.
Graham Muter/Steve Hallmark lead the Historic class H8 in their Escort Mk2 and are third in the BTRDA Historic Asphalt Cup behind Geoff Roberts/Ian Jones (Escort RS1800 Mk2).
Other performances of note include Joe McKeand (co-driven by Charlotte McDowall) who lies 11th in the overall drivers’ standings and second in class B14 after a great run in his Subaru Impreza.
The event didn’t start well for Anthony Eaton/Ian Jackson, who hit a rock and broke the suspension on their bright yellow Autotest Ford Fiesta R5 on SS2. They restarted and had a good run on day two.
Adrian Spencer/Ashley Trimble finished both days in their RED Industries Subaru Impreza WRX.
John Stone looked on course for a bounty of Protyre Asphalt points, despite co-driver Laura Connell feeling unwell since arriving on the island and losing her voice. On such narrow, fast and bumpy roads a small mistake can have big consequences, and with the finish in sight Stone clipped a bank and ripped a wheel off his Legend Fires Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.
Stephen Simpson/Patrick Walsh overcooked a jump and damaged their Tudor Glass Ford Fiesta Rally2 on day one. They reappeared on day two, but what was meant to be a dress rehearsal test for the Jim Clark Rally ended with head gasket failure.
Steven Ormond-Smith/Dafydd Evans started the event with the wrong suspension setting on their ORMCO Accounts/Manx Rally Sport-supported Mitsubishi Evo 9, which gave them no confidence in the bumpy sections. New suspension was fitted for Leg 2 and the local driver was determined to move up from 18th overall, but a double puncture on the final stage of the night cost more time, and when a cracked gearbox casing was discovered in service, it was game over for Ormond-Smith.
Mike English/Andy Robinson were having a good run in their gorgeous turquoise Alan Causey-prepared Proact-backed Fiesta Rally2 – until they clipped something on SS9, which broke a rear hub and forced them off the road on the following fast left hander.
Richard Clews/Carl Williamson made a cracking start, despite power steering problems in their Chevron Motorsport-prepared ITG Subaru Impreza STi. They started day two an impressive 14th overall – but their concerns about a clutch problem came true as they retired early on Saturday.
Stephen Harvey/Andy Falconer were making their Manx debut and enjoying a great run in only their third closed road event. Unfortunately, they hit a grass bank head on in The Curraghs, standing their Telematic Solutions/Swedish Truck Parts Subaru Impreza on its nose and breaking the steering.
Brad Cole/Neil Colman had been the top placed two-wheel drive crew at the end of day one, but were to retire their Trick Motorsport-prepared Hydroline Solutions 2.5-litre Escort Mk2 with differential problems.
Double class B11 champions Paul and Julian Doroszczuk won the Dynamic Fluids Best Presented Car Award (as chosen and presented by Protyre Asphalt Championship scrutineer Geoff Doe) for their immaculate Drockspeed Motorsport Escort Mk2. Unfortunately, a cracked radiator near the end of day one put them out of the event, as they didn’t want to continue and risk damaging the car’s normally aspirated Cosworth engine.
Antony Allery/Richard Bonner split the radiator in their Escort Mk2 on day one and retired with clutch problems on day two.
John and Rachael McCullough started well but retired their Hoosier-shod KPR Mechanical Escort Mk2 on the first run through The Curraghs.
Mark Holmes/Mark Perryman were debuting their new Mark Holmes Auto Engineering-backed Ford Escort Mk1 but retired with gearbox issues, while a broken wheel forced Will Onions (co-driven by Dave Williams) out in his Historic spec Motorcraft Ford Escort RS1800.
Jonathan Stepney/Aled Davies couldn’t wait to debut their fantastic looking and sounding Griffiths Group/Motorhome Services Scotland-backed Renault Clio Sport 2.0 16v, but it turned into an event they’d rather forget. Day one ended early with brake problems, while day two started with suspension issues and ended on SS15 with broken driveshafts.
Action from the Manx National Rally is available to view on the Special Stage TV Facebook page, with commentary from Paul Woodford and Phill Bramhill.
Round 4 of the 2023 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship is the Beatson’s Building Supplies Jim Clark Rally on 26/27 May.
More information on the Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship is available at: asphaltrallying.com.
Membership of the BTRDA can be done online at: btrdamembership.com.
Manx National Rally – top 10 registered 2023 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship finishers (after SS17):
1. Callum Black/Jack Morton (Ford Fiesta Rally2)….1hr 58mins 16.1secs
2. Neil Roskell/Andrew Roughead (Ford Fiesta Rally2)….2hrs 01mins 33.9secs
3. Steve Wood/Kenny Hull (Ford Fiesta WRC)….2hrs 02mins 40.9secs
4. Wayne Sisson/Peredur Davies (Mitsubishi Evo 10)….2hrs 05mins 43.2secs
5. William Hill/Richard Crozier (Ford Fiesta Rally3)….2hrs 08mins 02.0secs
6. Sam Adams/Michael Johnston (Ford Escort Mk2)….2hrs 08mins 27.8secs
7. Will Rowlands/Emyr Hall (Ford Escort RS1800)….2hrs 09mins 30.1secs
8. Olly Hunter/Matt Daniels (Ford Escort Mk2)….2hrs 13mins 24.7secs
9. Gerry Fitzelle/Mark Mason (Ford Escort Mk2)….2hrs 13mins 46.0secs
10. Joe McKeand/Charlotte McDowall (Subaru Impreza)….2hrs 15mins 42.9secs
2023 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship – top 6 drivers’ overall after Round 3:
1. Neil Roskell….74pts
2. Will Hill….60pts
3. David Wright….59pts
4. Callum Black….58pts
5. Steve Wood….52pts
6. Will Rowlands….52pts