Three time British Rally champion Mark Higgins will bid to make yet more history on next weeks 46th Rally Isle of Man.
Having last year taken a first ever win on the event for a ‘showroom’ group N car, and after in 2005 becoming the first driver to win every stage of any British Championship round, the mid-Wales based Manxman will return to home soil aiming to become the first ever five-time winner of one of the British Isles most prestigious rallies.
If he is to achieve the feat, he would move ahead of the illustrious company of Russell Brookes and Tony Pond who currently also appear on the roll of honour four times.
Bryan Thomas, who co-drove Mark to victory on two of those four victories (2000 and 2005), will also be bidding to join Derek Ringer as the only co-driver to score four wins.
The Pirelli TEG Sport Subaru team are unlikely to have it all their own way however when they roll off the start ramp next Friday morning for two action-packed days.
The event features as the fourth round of the MSA British Rally Championship, and 22 year-old series leader Keith Cronin will follow Higgins away from the TT Grandstand with Greg Shinnors alongside in a Mitsubishi Evo 9 that has already scooped victories on the North Wales and Pirelli international events.
While Higgins warms up for the event by tackling a week-long charity bike ride the length of Wales, Cronin just last weekend scored a crushing victory on the Ravens Rock Rally, beating most of Ireland’s leading national WRC drivers in his group N car.
It has all the ingredients for a great battle, though in truth there are several other ‘young guns’ who could well be in the fray. Northern Ireland’s Alistair Fisher and Jonathan Greer (both in Evo 9’s), Bristol’s Adam Gould (Pirelli TEG Sport Subaru), Dumfries’ David Bogie (JRM-Lico Evo X) and fellow Scot’s Euan Thorburn (Revolution Wheels Subaru) and Dave Weston Jnr (Subaru) will all be hopeful of improving their title challenge.
The event is also a round of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship, and five of the top seven group N drivers will be in action, headed by Ballymena’s Alan Carmichael (Evo 9), the series leader.
Throw in the usual strong local challenge, headed by the Mitsubishi’s of Steven Quine (Douglas) and Nigel Cannell (Santon), and the close competition of the Citroen C2R2 Cup, Suzuki Swift Sport Cup and Fiesta Sporting Trophy crews, and the action should be fast and furious.
In total 135 rally crews are set to tackle the islands famous closed roads stages on Friday 10th and Saturday 11th July, spread across the International, Historic, Challenge and Trophy events, offering something for everyone.