The fifth edition of the HERO-ERA Three Legs of Mann Rally event runs throughout Friday and Saturday across the island.

The event has attracted many of the top crews in the discipline from Europe amongst the capacity 60-car field.

Cars ranging from a 1955 Lancia Aurelia B20 to a 1980 Audi 80 Quattro, and crews from all parts of the UK and Ireland along with Germany, Italy, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg are set to take the start.

The entry level ties in with the event theme as it commemorates the diamond anniversary of the Manx Trophy Rally, which later became the Manx International Rally, then Rally Isle of Man, by following parts the original route of the 1963 Manx Trophy Rally.

The local challenge will be headed by Noel Kelly and co-driver Pete Johnson, who is the reigning HERO Golden Roamer Navigator’s Champion. They will drive Kelly’s regular 1966 Volvo 122S, having finished sixth overall as class winners on the last Three Legs in 2019.

Father and son crew, David and James Mylchreest, are regulars on the event, and will drive an Austin Healey 3000, also of 1966 vintage, scoring a top-three class finish in 2019.

Pat Bettridge and Andrew Holmes (Peugeot 205), each multiple former Isle of Man Navigational Rally champions, return after making a superb debut in 2019, finishing second in class and inside the top 20 overall in what was, as with this edition, a high-quality field. They have since contested HERO events off-island, so it’ll be interesting to see how they fair this time around.

No stranger to most forms of Manx motorsport, but making his Three Legs debut, is Adrian Kermode, in a 1972 Mini 1275 GT with Andy Darlington on the maps and stopwatches.

HERO-ERA competition director Guy Woodcock is delighted with both the quality and quantity of the entry.

‘The field is as competitive as it comes, probably more competitive than the RAC Rally of the Tests, so many of those entered have a chance of winning and the fight for the class wins will be incredibly tight as well.’

Amongst the contenders are current HERO Cup Drivers Champion Stephen Owens (1965 Porsche 911), and 2019 winning co-driver Iain Tullie with Andy Lane in a BMW2002. That 2019 event evolved into a tooth-and-nail contest only decided in the final few miles.

There are also newcomers to watch out for, including double HERO Challenge Champions Alistair Leckie and Matt Outhwaite (Saab 900), excited to head to the island for the first time.

The event combines autotests and regularity sections in a variety of sections on open roads, closed roads, off-road venues and plantations, that means almost all of the mileage is competitive.

The start is on Friday morning at 8.30am in the TT Grandstand pit lane, with the opening tests around the Grandstand and Noble’s Park offering multiple opportunities to see the crews in action, before heading out towards Jurby motordrome, that will host a series of timed to the second tests across the event.

The route takes in the island from top to bottom, heading south in early afternoon before finding its way back to Jurby via further sections, with the opening leg concluding at around 5pm.

The respite is brief, however, before heading into Friday night’s second leg shortly after 6pm, with a ‘local night-rally’ feel including off-road tracks and plantation action, plus a return trip to Jurby, a real navigational challenge in the darkness.

The leading crews are due back at the Palace Hotel HQ at around 11.30pm. The Friday night sections double up as the March Rally round of the IoM Navigational Rally Championship. All the available entries for the locals were taken, and in previous editions they have acquitted themselves very well, Jess Collister/Adam Yates (Subaru Impreza) setting performances that would have seen them in the top four of the main event in 2017.

The third leg on Saturday morning begins at 9.30am from The Palace, with Tholt-y-Will leading crews back to Jurby, and a run down Injebreck and West Baldwin bringing crews to afternoon closing tests at the Grandstand before the finish at The Palace (Hotel).

Covering 360 miles in total, in little more than 30 hours, with 26 autotest-style sections across the island and a further 15 regularity (average speed) sections, with every second late or early counting, it is a concentrated challenge for all of the crews.

Scrutineering takes place at the TT Grandstand from late afternoon today, Thursday, with signing-on for officials also at the Grandstand on Thursday evening.

Time schedule (first car due times)

Leg One - Friday daytime: 8.30am TT Grandstand (start and test); 10am Noble’s Park (test); 11am Crosby Arms (time control); midday Jurby Motordrome (tests); 1.30pm The Abbey (time control); 4pm Jurby Motordrome (tests).

Leg two - Friday evening: 6.20pm Conrhenny Plantation (regularity section); 10pm Brandywell Cottage (time control section); 11.30pm Palace Hotel (time control/end of leg).

Leg Three - Saturday: 9.30am Palace Hotel (time control/start of leg); 11.15am Tynwald Inn (time control); 11.45am Tholt-y-Will (regularity section); 12.30pm Jurby Motordrome (tests); 3.15pm Injebreck/West Baldwin (regularity section); 3.40pm Noble’s Park (test).