WELSHMAN Mel Evans won the Manx Telecom Rally for the third time on Saturday, but he was chased home by three local crews in an event of mixed weather and high attrition.
Evans now joins an elite list of drivers who have won the ‘Manx National’ on three occasions. He was victorious in 2002 and 2008 and this time, partnered by Patrick Walsh in the Subaru Impreza WRC, his margin was substantial – nearly four minutes after 120 miles of stages.
Ultimately, the local husband and wife team of Nigel and Michaela Cannell took the runners-up spot in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, with Andrew Leece and Graham Fargher third in an Evo VI.
The Cannells’ service crew had been kept busy as a differential needed changing towards the end of the Manx Auto Sport organised event, but they were more fortunate than George Collister and Janet Craine whose considerably older Evo III had been running as high as second for a while but was forced to drop back with a bad oil leak.
Collister and Craine eventually arrived home in the driver’s home town of Peel in fourth place, ahead of John Stone/Ian Grindrod (Skoda Fabia WRC) and Graham Coffey/David Gamblin (Subaru Impreza WRC).
Leading the event at the end of the first leg, Paul Bird’s hopes of becoming the first driver to win the Manx Telecom Rally on three consecutive occasions came to nought on the second stage on Saturday morning when the Cumbrian’s Ford Focus WRC left the road and hit a bank on the Orrisdale stage. The car was not badly damaged but, by the time it was mobile again, Bird and co-driver Kirsty Riddick had lost so much time that they elected not to continue.
The Scottish crew of David Hardie/John McCulloch (Subaru Impreza) were seventh, while the leading two-wheel drive car was the Ford Escort MkII of John Ashton/Mark Lewis in eighth, one place in front of locals Kex Walker and Danni Matthews, who had an excellent drive in the BMW 325.
The top-10 was rounded off by yet another local pairing, Tim Collins and Paul McCann, in a Lancer Evo IX.
A fuller report will appear in Friday’s Manx Independent, together with full results and more action pictures.