Eurocars Motorsport Manx Rally Championship leaders Mark and Eunice Cubbon will look to move to within striking distance of a maiden title when the series resumes after a three month break for Saturday’s Duke Stages Rally.

The husband and wife team have won all three rounds so far this year in their Mitsubishi Evo 7, across closed roads, plantation and airfield, and will start as ready favourites despite a very strong line up among the near capacity entry of 42 crews. That certainly vindicates Druidale Motor Club’s decision to move their flagship event onto closed roads for the first time.

George Collister and Janet Craine (Evo 3), winners of the event the last time it ran in 2006, will lead the rally into action from the former parade ground at Jurby just before 9am. The Cubbon’s start behind and a sign of their commitment to the Championship was the fact that they opted to miss Rally Isle of Man in order to save the car.

If the weather forecasters have it right then four wheel drive is likely to be a significant advantage, and while the top two teams should be right their, don’t count out Dave Corris and Rob Fagg. Dave set some brilliant times, first time out in his experimental Ford Fiesta Cosworth 4x4 on the Trophy Rally, and is a double former winner on Jurby Airfield, home to four of the 16 tests.

The two-wheel drive battle looks likely to be even closer if anything. Reigning Manx champions Richard Curphey and Andrew Holmes start at three in the ex-Steve Quine Astra, provided a full rebuild is completed in time (see Rally Torque). Smiler himself starts just behind in Tim Collins’ Super 2000 Vauxhall Corsa, and should be quite a sight to see with Paul McCann on the notes.

Also back after a short break from club action are Shaun Fox/Voirrey Minay (Corsa), looking to put their early retirement on the International behind them.

The quality continues through the rest of the top 10 and beyond, with Ian and Connor Corkill both very much on the pace after regular UK outings in their Escorts, Andrew Leece quickly getting to grips with his Astra, Kex Walker (BMW 325) buoyed by the first two podiums of his career and John Kirkpatrick right on the pace last time out in his special rear-wheel drive Astra.

After an opening two forays over the airfield the rally moves to closed roads across the north of the island from 10.15am, with three runs each at Andreas and Thurot Cottage. Lunchtime service and two more airfield stages follow at Jurby with the closing action taking in three runs each at the Garey Ford road (weather permitting!) and Hibernia at the Gosseneck. The leading crews are due back at the Jurby finish at 3.45pm.

         Scrutineering and signing-on for the Duke Stages takes place tonight (Thursday) at Eurocars from 6pm. Officials signing-on for radio crews, recovery units, timekeepers and marshals is also tonight at the TT Grandstand from 7pm. The contact for officials is Mandy Millward on 209962, so if you can help in any way please give her a call.

         Richard Curphey is facing a race against time to complete the re-build of his recently acquired Vauxhall Astra in order to take the start. Richard has quite literally done a ‘nut and bolt’ breakdown of the car to familiarise himself completely with it. At the start of the week co-driver Andrew Holmes told us that the shell was just about completed and they were about to begin re-assembly of the mechanics, and that many of the rally fraternity were set to offer assistance.

         The organisers are keeping a watchful eye on the weather with particular reference to the Garey Ford stage. Last weekends deluge made the ford impassable for the recce, with a near-metre high water flow. Clerk of the Course Kris Killip was optimistic earlier this week, despite the forecast, telling us on Tuesday, ‘Last Saturday was exceptional, hopefully there won’t ne anything like that this week, but we’re monitoring it.’

         Anyone looking to spectate on the event is asked to act responsibly. No spectators will be permitted into the airfield for those stages, and most of the closed roads tests involve a single stretch of road, so there are no junctions to view from. Please obey officials instructions.

         The Prize Presentation for the rally will take place at the Union Mills clubhouse on Saturday night, Doors open at 7.30pm with the presentation from 9pm. Entry is free and everyone welcomed.

         Going into the event Mark Cubbon holds a six point lead in the Eurocars Motorsport Manx Rally Championhsip, with 105 points to Richard Curphey’s 99. Kevin Vondy and Martyn Jones are tied on 75, followed by Kex Walker 65, Ian Corkill and Nigel Cannell 62 and Graham Collister on 58.

         Eunice has a similar lead over Andrew Holmes in the co-drivers title hunt, 105 to 99, with Nick Kaighin third on 91, Danni Matthews 65 and Emma Kennaugh 54.


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