Isle of Man Historic Rally Report

Dunlop/Gambia MSA British Historic Rally ChampionshipJimmy McRae and Andy Richardson stormed to a classy victory on the Isle of Man Historic Rally over the weekend (17-19 July), winning category three in style as they drove their Porsche 911RS for the first time since crashing out of the Pirelli Rally in April.

Round five of the 2008 Dunlop/Gambia MSA British Historic Rally ran over the closed roads on the island and was every bit as testing and demanding as its reputation suggests. For anyone driving over the finish ramp back in Douglas on Saturday afternoon, there was a tremendous feeling of achievement, whatever the final position.

In category one, Dessie Nutt/Geraldine McBride added another Manx victory to their record while making it a clean-sweep for the Porsches was a fine category two victory for Steven Smith/John Nichols.Category 1Through the opening leg of stages on Thursday evening and much of Friday, the lead contest in category one was nip and tuck stuff between Nutt/McBride and Patrick Watts/Elgan Davies in the Sunbeam Tiger. As the weather changed frequently, so did the class lead, but it all went wrong for the Tiger as the weather closed in on the second run through the Little London stage. After a clash with a sheep, worse followed when standing water put the fan into the radiator and they were out for the day.

That took the heat off Nutt/McBride and they were able to measure their pace through Saturday's stages to make certain of another victory. "Dessie's driven very well," reported his co-driver after the champagne spraying on the podium.

Right up with the leading pace on the opening legs was the Lotus Cortina of Jonathan and Graham Gale, but they went out with a broken halfshaft. That put the MG Midget of James Stait/Gill Cotton in line for second in the category, but they joined a number of others by going off on standing water on the Cringle stage on Saturday. It cost them 11 minutes and handed B2 spoils to Matt and Dood Pearce after a mighty run in their Mini Cooper.

Class B4 went to non-BHRC registered David Mylchreest/Allan Cathers in the MGB, while a measured performance in the light of on-going misfire problems netted second in class for the Lotus Cortina of Neil Calvert and Arlene Cookson. Importantly, they stayed at the head of the BHRC overall points as Arlene co-drove on the island for the first time in a decade.

Class B1 was all about the Imps of Gary and Jane Edgington and Mike Barratt/Jody Watson. Both crews finished, which was a major achievement, and the Edgingtons took the class by a healthy margin after an attacking drive. Despite an engine that was consuming oil at an increasing rate, they also took a remarkable fifth place overall in the category.Category 2It all started badly for Smith/Nichols on the opening stage on Marine Drive when an errant seagull smashed the Porsche's windscreen, while uncharacteristic road penalties added to their woes. With no replacement on the island, the XS Racing crew had to make a borrowed screen from a later 911 fit.

Once that was sorted, the Porsche and its crew ran faultlessly, giving chase to McRae in overall terms, but also measuring the need to bag maximum championship points. "We struggled a bit with set-up, but we had a very fair run," reported Smith after wining C4 from the 911s of Derek Boyd/Roisin Boyd and Dessie McCartney/Andrew Holmes.Second in the category with a fine performance came David Stokes and Guy Weaver (Escort Mk1). "That's about where we thought we'd be," said Stokes after a remarkably trouble-free event.

Out of contention in C5 with a broken halfshaft after a spectacular run went the Escort of Rupert Lomax/David Alcock, while engine dramas accounted for Ernie Graham/Robin Kellard on Friday morning.

The contest for C3 was a topsy-turvy affair and the lead changed three times in less than a mile. Out after a clash with a bank on the Orrisdale stage went Ken Forster/John Stanger-Leathes and less than mile further on Drew Wylie/Neil Ewing parked their Escort Mk1 with a starter problem. Instead, fellow XS Racing crew Andrew Siddall/Captain Thompson moved ahead on the driver's first Isle of Man event. But, cruelly, an engine problem on the very last stage cost them three minutes and into victory came Peter Smith/Howard Pridmore, another XS crew with a driver making his island debut.

Neil Rudd/Brian Hodgson had a good run to take C2 in their Escort Mk1.Category 3McRae started as meant to go on with fastest time on the opening stage and was never headed once the meat of the event got underway on a very foggy run over Little London on Friday morning.

It proved to be a very problem-free run for McRae/Richardson, until the final stage of the rally. Heading into the Classic stage they had 50s in hand over Smith/Nichols, but going over the top of the stage at Injebreck, the Porsche shed another fan belt."The last six miles were very nervous," said McRae. He backed off as much as possible to nurse the car home and only dropped six seconds, despite finishing with a very hot engine.

On only his second visit to the Island, Richard Hill – co-driven as usual by Patrick Cooper – was as spectacular as ever in his Escort Mk2 and took second in category three as well as D5 spoils. However, a rather battered Escort showed how hard he had been trying, with notable damage from an off on the Orrisdale stage. The same corner claimed Dick Slaughter/Geoff Dearing, while Simon Tysoe/Rob Dyson had earlier inverted their Escort Mk2.

Ian Corkill, co-driven by his daughter Rivka, came through to second in D5, while third in the class was reward for Roger Kilty/Lynette Banks (Vauxhall Chevette HSR).

The D3 class was also action-packed, with pacesetters Will Onions/Tim Hobbs out with a blown engine and Arwel Evans/Arwel Jenkins sidelined by clutch failure. Instead, another mighty Isle of Man drive from Mark and Brett Clifford netted D3 victory and tenth overall in their Escort Mk2, two minutes up on Chris Shooter/Bev LeGood.

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