Local hero Mark Higgins will after all bid for an incredible sixth Rally Isle of Man crown in early July after submitting a last minute entry for the event as the deadline loomed.
It had been feared that the driver, who last year took a record-breaking fifth win, would end a 20-year run of consecutive appearances on his home event, as he is not contesting the 2010 Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship.
The three time BRC champion, down to drive a Subaru Impreza, is however sure to face strong opposition as every single one of the top 15 drivers in this years title hunt are also on the list!
They are headed by Welsh rally legend Gwyndaf Evans, who has taken victory for the JRM Mitsubishi squad on the last two rounds, the Pirelli and Jim Clark events, and will be desperate to finally put his name on the ‘Manx’ trophy after coming close so many times down the years.
Reigning champion Keith Cronin won much acclaim as he fought a tumultuous battle with Higgins last year, and going one better this time in his Pirelli TEG Sport Subaru would also put the Cork drivers’ title defence back on track.
Underlining the quality, all of last years top six return, with young Alistair Fisher aiming to better a brilliant third place. The Revolution Wheels Mitsubishi driver has declared a win on this event as one of his main career ambitions, with the obvious family history associated with it through his late uncle Bertie.
Add in current points leader and fellow Northern Ireland countryman Jonny Greer (Mitsubishi) and Craig Breen in the screaming state-of-the-art Ford Fiesta Super 2000, Scotland’s ‘young guns’ Dave Weston junior and Euan Thorburn along with England’s Adam Gould in Subaru’s, as well as the island’s own challenge headed by Steve Quine (a brilliant fourth last year), and Nigel Cannell (both in Mitsubishi’s), and there’s the makings of an absolute cracker…and that’s only the International event!
The top contenders for the hugely popular Historic Rally include many leading drivers from the Dunlop/Wonago.com British Championship. The spectator-friendly Ford Escort’s dominate, in the hands of Shrewsbury’s Will Onions, Omagh’s Ryan Barrett, rising local star Connor Corkill and former winner David Stokes to name but a few.
They’ll be joined by other former victors Adrian Kermode and Dessie Nutt in Porsche 911’s, and a returning Theo Bengry (Opel Ascona), who scored top six finishes on the International in the 1980’s.
The Challenge Rally category also features the main title contenders from the BRC Challenge. Entries are in from all the top three on the table; Callum Black (MG ZR), Brett Griffin (Peugeot 106) and Jonathan Cunningham (Ford Fiesta ST).
Jim Clark Challenge Rally winner Richard Archer (Vauxhall Corsa) however has a long record in the Manx lanes and will provide a stiff benchmark, as will rapid local driver Kevin Vondy (Corsa), who joins the fray for the first time. Many other local drivers are also entered for the non-Championship Challenge category.
In total just over 100 rally crews are set to tackle the islands famous closed roads stages on Friday 9th and Saturday 10th July, and the spread of quality looks set to make it an event not to be missed!