Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship round four – International Rally Isle of Man 9/10 July 2010
With just a week remaining before Rally Isle of Man, the fourth round of the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship, anticipation is mounting for the front runners on this, the fastest rally in the BRC calendar.
The event, which was historically the final round of the series, is now the second of three asphalt events and has seen one name dominate the top step of the podium during the last ten years.
Manxman Mark Higgins has five outright event wins and despite not fighting for the 2010 championship, he has registered to score points and will be a severe fly in the ointment for both reigning champion Keith Cronin, with co-driver Barry McNulty and the winners of the previous two events Welshman Gwyndaf Evans & Chris Patterson.
Evans is the only other driver in the field to have won the rally before, but he will have to cast his mind back to 1995 when he last won the event as part of the British Rally Championship. He does, however, have more recent experience of winning on this unique asphalt surface, blitzing the opposition on last year’s Isle of Man Historic Rally.
Taking into account his retirement on round one, the dropped score which is allowed at the end of the season, the 1996 British Rally Champion has a perfect forty points, but he certainly hasn’t had it all his own way. Irishman Cronin led the Pirelli Rally until the finish line was almost in sight, a flailing puncture tearing out the Pirelli TEG Sport Impreza’s wiring loom.
The reigning champion does have experience of leading the classic Isle of Man event, surprising many onlookers as he bettered Higgins in the early stages last year. But it was ultimately the Manxman who scored a record breaking victory and whilst unlikely to win the series, he could easily influence its outcome by taking points from the leaders.
The man leading the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship’s 52nd season and the Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge at its half way point is Jonny Greer with Welsh co-driver Dai Roberts, but by the Northern Irishman’s own admission it is through consistency, his best BRC result this year a second place on the Pirelli Rally. He was on track for a podium finish in the Isle of Man in 2009, but he rolled the car into retirement on stage eight.
Young Scot Dave Weston Junior took a brilliant second on the first round in March, ably guided by Ieuan Thomas in the Ramsport Impreza, but he rolled on the Pirelli Rally and had gearbox problems last time out, hoping for better luck next weekend. The pair has plenty of recent mileage in the car, contesting Rally Ypres, a round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge last weekend.
2008 Pirelli Star Driver Adam Gould held a surprise third with new co-driver Craig Drew as they debuted their ex Mark Higgins Impreza in Wales. Now nominated to score points for Pirelli TEG Sport, the youngster’s return to the team in last year’s Manx winning car could prove a fruitful one.
Craig Breen and Gareth Roberts punctured during their fight for the lead in Cumbria. They continued with several fastest stages on asphalt, eventually succumbing to mechanical failure, their second retirement of the year. Sadly the youngster has withdrawn from next weekend’s event, damage sustained on an Irish Championship event unable to be repaired in time.
Alastair Fisher briefly led his first BRC event last time out. Another young Northern Irishman, co-driven by double British champion Rory Kennedy, has two retirements from the start of the season, but they weathered a late misfire to hang onto second ahead of Cronin. Leading the Citroën Irish Tarmac Championship and with a Manx podium last year, they are surely due a win on an event that eluded his famous Uncle Bertie.
Certainly worthy of note and currently third in the points table are the fast improving Jason Pritchard and Robbie Durant. The Welsh/English partnership is new for 2010 along with the Impreza N16 and the youngster has two Epynt event wins to his credit in the car.
JR Motorsports’ Daniel Sigurðarson and his sister Ásta don’t have good memories of rallying on the Isle of Man, crashing heavily on the 2007 national event. But they made some progress to overcome their asphalt trepidation, delighted to finish their first sealed surface event inside the top ten on the Jim Clark Rally.
Just outside the top ten but certainly capable of finishing well are Alan Cookson/Jules Wilkinson and Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton, both driving similar Subaru Imprezas. Cookson’s car, affectionately known as Muriel because of its distinctive Friesian cow livery, will be attending a Douglas school with the crew to help promote road safety and answers questions about the event on the Wednesday before the rally.
Dulux Trade MSA British Junior Rally Championship
The championship top ten is completed by Junior drivers. Eighth is leading BRC Junior crew Elfyn Evans/Andrew Edwards who also heads the Fiesta SportTrophy with four wins from four. Finnish newcomer and Rally2 leader Jarkko Nikara trails Evans by just three junior points in his Twingo and top Citroën Racing Trophy crew of Robert Barrable/Damien Connolly tie for third with fellow Citroën driver Mark Donnelly in the under 25s. Rounding off the top Juniors is another new Finnish crew of Mikko Pajunen/Janne Perälä who also lead the Swift Sport Cup.
Dulux Trade MSA British Teams Rally Championship
JR Motorsports currently lead the Teams tables ahead of Pirelli TEG Sport and Ramsport. In a change of lineup, Euan Thorburn is replaced for this event by Adam Gould, Thorburn prevented from starting his home event last month after a shakedown fault could not be diagnosed in time and Ramsport fielded just one car after Weston destroyed his on the Pirelli.
Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship Diesel & Ladies Cups
Both the Diesel and Ladies Cups can be sewn up on Rally Isle of Man with just one crew in each category. Brothers Steve and Tony Graham just need to finish to seal their second successive diesel title while the same applies to Australian Molly Taylor, this time joined in the co-driver’s seat by her multiple award winning mother Coral.
Pirelli Star Driver
The Pirelli Star Driver competition has three finalists, one from each of the events so far. They will be joined by the judges’ nomination from Rally Isle of Man and hopefully he or she will be able to take possession of the “yellow jersey”, Craig Breen awarded his place whilst on the ferry home after a galling retirement in Scotland.
Round 1: Elfyn Evans
Round 2: Mikko Pajunen
Round 3: Craig Breen
International Rally Isle of Man
International Rally Isle of Man is based at the TT grandstand above Douglas from where the event starts and finishes. A ceremonial start will take place on North Quay’s harbour side pedestrian area on Thursday evening from 8pm with the action starting at 10:30 on Friday morning. The final stage blasts past the TT Grandstand at around 3:45 on Saturday, the winners spraying champagne on the podium at 4pm.