The 2010 Dunlop/WONAGO.com MSA British Historic Rally Championship switches to asphalt for round five, the Isle of Man Historic Rally on 9/10 July.
The challenging closed public roads of the island always make up one of the most spectacular events of the season and with extra championship points available on this round, there is everything to play for as the leading crews head for Douglas.
Category 1: Heading the category one field will be the Sunbeam Tiger of Jonathan Gale/James Whitaker, winners of the opening round in Wales in March. Consistent top finishes have put them well in contention for the overall title, but now comes the biggest challenge of the season. The Tiger crashed out on the island a year ago, and Gale knows well enough that a strong finish this weekend will really set-up his title bid.
The biggest challenge to the Tiger will come defending champions Dessie Nutt and Geraldine McBride in their Porsche 911 and no crew has more experience of the Manx roads than the Irish pairing. If Nutt is to retain his title, he needs to beat the Tiger this time. Joining the category one field is the Porsche 911 of Rikki Proffitt/Barry Green and the wonderful Austin Healey 3000 of Graham Goodall/Peter Gilbert.
In class B4, Isle of Man veterans John and Stephen Moxon field their Volvo Amazon to continue a run on the island that goes back more than 30 years. Against them will be the rapid MGB of David Mylchreest/Allan Cathers, while fellow local crew Tom Shimmin/Darren Leadley head class B3 in their Ford Cortina. Notable among the smaller cars is the flying Singer Chamois of Gary and Jane Edgington, which will humble some of the more powerful cars with its pace.
Category 2: Former champions David Stokes and Guy Weaver will head the category two field, for the post-historic cars, in their Ford Escort Mk1 and will be as spectacular as ever. After a troubled start to the season, they won on the Severn Valley and can win again the island, where they have traditionally been very strong. Prime rivals to Stokes will be Rupert Lomax and David Alcock, who will be just as entertaining to watch in their Escort Mk1. Having missed the first half of the season while sorting out a fresh engine, Lomax will be eager to get back into competition.
Chasing the Escorts will be the Porsche 911of Peter Smith/Russ Langthorne, which scored a famous victory in Kielder in April, while class C3 should be the domain of Andrew Siddall and Captain Thompson in their Pinto-powered Escort Mk1. Isle of Man debutants Jeremy Wells and Peter Phillips will chase Siddall in C3, but will be pleased to simply see the finish on Saturday afternoon after the toughest event of Wells' rallying career to date.
Category 3: The category three contest is very open with at least four crews firmly in contention for glory. In championship terms, Will Onions and Dave Williams have the most to gain as they enjoy their best season to date with Onions' Mk2 Escort. His friend and rival Darren Moon – partnered as usual by Chris Parsons – will be a major contender, as will local aces Connor Corkill and Rob Fagg, who are having a great season in their Escort Mk2. Local knowledge could just help them take a first major victory and there would be no more popular victor on Saturday afternoon than young Corkill.
But then there is the Porsche 911 of another local ace in the form of Adrian Kermode, partnered by Maurice Beckett. They could just be the crew to topple all the Escorts. But Kermode also has a strong D4 field to watch out for, including the Lotus Sunbeams of Adrian and Dan Seabridge and John Kirkpatrick/Martyn Quine, along with the Triumph TR7 V8 of Stephen Hall and Alan Jackson. Meanwhile, making a long overdue return to the island after more than a quarter of a century away is the Opel Ascona 400 of Theo Bengry/Les Forsbrook. More quick category three Escorts include those of Roger Kilty/Lynette Banks and David Pritchard/Emyr Hall.
In class D3, for the Pinto-powered Escort Mk2s, Mark Clifford and Graham Wild will start as favourites as Clifford tries to repeat his previous top 10 overall finish on the island. His rivals include son and father crew Matt and Dood Pearce in their Escort RS2000.
The Isle of Man Historic Rally is organised by Manx International Rally Ltd. For more details about the event, please visit the website at: www.mir.co.im. The historic rally starts from Douglas on Friday morning (9 July) and finishes on Saturday afternoon.