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Manx International Rally
RALLY NEWS No.1 - Douglas Pre Start - Monday @ 16:32:55

RALLY NEWS NO.1 Douglas/Thursday/Noon

The leading cars on this Rally Isle of Man will tackle the first of the planned 22 special stages around seven o’clock tonight, and then we should get a clearer picture of how the form book will look over the weekend. In theory Wexford’s Eamonn Boland, first on the road, should have a clear edge. His state of the art Subaru Impreza WRC S12B is the heavyweight of the field. However, rallying is rarely that clear cut. There may be a dearth of other world rally cars this time, but drivers such as Mark and David Higgins in their latest model Impreza N14’s, Guy Wilks and Phillip Morrow in the ‘works’ GpN Mitsubishis, as well as quite a few more young drivers in their GpN machines, are sure to set a cracking pace and be snapping at Eamonn’s Subaru back bumper from the word go.

For Eamonn Boland this rally could be a balancing act, with the number one priority being to concentrate on getting maximum points in the Global Group Tarmac Championship, and so almost certainly tie up this year’s title. The rub for Wexford man Eamonn is that he would love to put his name on the Manx International Rally roll of honour, a feat achieved by very few Irish drivers. (Eugene Donnelly has just done it, but before that it was the late Frank Meagher in ’95, and before that it was Cahal Curley and Adrian Boyd in ’73 & ’74!).This is such a long tough rally, with the high speeds, massive variety of roads and changeable weather conditions all likely to take their toll.

The same criteria apply of course to the leading contenders in the Tesco 99 Octane British Championship as to Eamonn. They may all run similar Pirelli tyres, but after that each crew is on his own, and somehow as the Manx Rally progresses, the pattern over the years has been that the screws just tighten down, the rally can become a scene of attrition and the wise heads, as well as the fast ones, come through at the end. Drivers with that sort of calibre include Mark and David Higgins, who have tasted success here in the past. Can their new model Imprezas match the latest Lancers? We shall see. Guy Wilks’ car is a replacement for the one burned out on the Jim Clark, so Guy, fresh from Rally Russia last weekend and with David Moynihan again co-driving, is hoping that his Lancer will be well set-up for these fast and at times bumpy Manx asphalt stages. Phillip Morrow’s Lancer wasn’t exactly pristine after its last outing either, so he will be hoping to get settled in quickly and do a good job for the Mitsubishi team.

In the British Championship points table, there is very little in it. David Higgins has a one point lead over Stuart Jones, the latter driver having done a very solid job indeed so far this year, driving his MG S2000 with brilliant judgement to notch up solid scores. Young Jonny Greer from Carryduff outside Belfast is 3rd in his private Lancer, and this very quiet young man is showing a lot of form, speeding up as each rally progresses. So long and tough is this Rally Isle of Man, Jonny could very well be there or thereabouts at the finish. James Wozencroft is 4th in the points and Wyn Humphreys 5th. Again, two talented young drivers and they may not be far away at the finish. Then, ironically, it is probably the two fastest men so far this year, Mark Higgins and Guy Wilks, down in equal 6th. They’ll be out to do something about that! Also sure to be in there battling for top ten positions will be the two top Tarmac series GpN contenders, Kevin Kelleher and John McGlaughlin, both in Lancers. Kevin has his brother Martin co-driving as usual, John has Monaghan’s Damien Connolly ‘standing-in’.

The rally isn’t all about the top men of course. There are only four cars in class R3, where Brian O’Mahony in his Clio should be the benchmark. In class R2 there are a plethora of Citroen C2R2’s and Suzuki Swifts as well as Fiestas, Civics and Novas. The Citroens have their own Championship, the C2R2 Cup, which is led by Martin Roberts from Matt Cotton, with Andrew Hockridge 3rd. Marty McCormick is down in 4th, despite having set some quick times this year, while George Thomas, who has also been very quick but suffered a few non-finishes, is 5th. Reportedly Thomas may not make the start, which is disappointing. Mark Gamble and Gordon Nichol are the joint leaders of the Suzukis. Later on in the rally the Challenge and Historic cars join in, which should also make for some very interesting action. Changes to the main field entry include Melvyn Evans non-starting, George Thomas is now confirmed as a non starter, as are car no’s 34, 38, 58 & 59.

More news to follow: BRIAN & LIZ PATTERSON HYPERLINK "http://www.rallynews.net" www.rallynews.net
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