Stockport’s Dave Pattison and Bolton’s Paul Whittaker will this weekend
bid to score back to back wins on Isle of Man closed roads rallies.
swept to victory on November’s Pokerstars Rally in their Mitsubishi Evo
6, becoming the first off-island crew to win such a Manx event, and will
lead a 49-car field into action from the TT Grandstand tonight (Friday)
for the 18-stage Chris Kelly Memorial Stages sponsored by Mann
Construction. 19 other visiting crews will line up with them.
Stone from Blackburn, one of the UK’s top asphalt drivers, starts
immediately behind in his Skoda Fabia WRC. Stone has recruited
experienced local co-driver Rob Fagg for the run.
Harper and Paula Swinscoe add to the top-end challenge in their BMW
Mini, and bring team-mates, father and son John and Martin Cressey once
again. Harper has led the event in the past and finished fourth here in
the November, from which 12 of the first 14 home re-engage one another.
Cressey isn’t one of them, but finished sixth 12 months ago.
Auto Sport organised rally is the opening round of the Eurocars
Motorsport Manx Rally Championship and the home challenge is headed by
former champion Nigel Cannell in his Mitsubishi Evo 9, who has
just-turned 16 year-old daughter Imogen alongside, making her rally
Leece/Graham Fargher and Martyn Jones with David Radcliffe will be
aiming to stop an all-visiting crews podium in their Evo 6’s, while Tim
Collins and Paul McCann have a new Evo 9 at their disposal.
Reigning champion Connor Corkill was a late entry on Tuesday with Howard
Allison, following their fine seventh place finish on last weekends
North West Stages, and will use the same MkII Escort.
Among the others to watch out for are local Sean Kelly, who moves up to
an Evo 6 for the first time, while Blackburn’s Tugs Sherrington makes a
first visit to the island, bringing a big Mull Rally reputation with him
in his Evo 4.
Class battles will keep the action going right through the field.
David Jones/Andrew Cowley are favourites for the 1400cc category in the
absence of usual frontrunner Kevin Vondy. The 1600cc class could be a
thriller, with visitors Ian Jones (Citroen C2R2), Chris and Heidi
Woodcock (Proton Compact) and Gary Edgington (Peugeot 106) all
well-experienced in the Manx lanes, with the enigmatic driving of Ben
Hardy (MkII Escort) taking them on.
Former British Junior champion Stuart Egglestone (Appleby) heads the
two-litre, front wheel drive entries, though both Andrew Holmes and Guy
Simpkiss will aim to keep it local, Guy in particular on his home patch.
All three drive Vauxhall Astra’s.
In the rear-wheel drive equivalent Corkill will be the man to beat, but
among those trying will be multiple championship runner-up Kex Walker
(BMW 325), John Kirkpatrick (Astra) and now regular visitors David and
John Coulson (BMW 320) and Hugh Jones (Escort MkII), while the Vauxhall
Chevette of Andrew Bird could be a dark horse.
Friday evening’s action is based at the TT Grandstand and covers 19
stage miles over six stages around Laxey covering Baldromma, Glen Roy
and Dog Kennels twice each.
The bulk of the action however is on Saturday, with 65 stage miles in
the north of the island from a base at Jurby Airfield. Tholt-e-Will and
Druidale are tackled twice each in the morning, before the action moves
on to St Judes and Glascoe (three times) as well as Andreas (twice),
with the leaders due at the finish in Ramsey square at 3:20pm.
For the first time the
event is a round of the ANWCC Stage Rally Championship, as well as
being the traditional opening round of the Eurocars Motorsport Manx
The event will be filmed
for inclusion on Motors TV’s Special Stage programme for the first
rally is named in the memory of Chris Kelly, former Clerk of Corse
of the event and long-time Manx Auto Sport Chairman. The first stage
of the rally finishes outside of Chris’s home.