PRITCHARD BACK ON TRACK
Rally Isle of Man Historics
Organiser: Rally Isle of Man ltd When: September 15-17 Where: Douglas, Isle of Man Championship British Historic Rally Championship; HRCR Old Stager; HRCR Stage Masters Stages: 20
After a typically tough and exciting Rally Isle of Man, Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke were the big historic winners with overall victory and two perfect BHRC scores after an exemplary performance on the best asphalt rally of the season.
A superb field of cars tackled the event, which included two rounds of the Mintex MSA British Historic Rally Championship, and Pritchard put himself firmly back in the hunt for a second title after two and a half hours of flat-out asphalt action. “It’s been a perfect weekend,” said Pritchard.
However, this was no easy cruise to victory over 160 miles of island roads in warm sunshine. Rivals came at Pritchard from all sides and it was Ryan Barrett and Paul Mccann who were closest to toppling Pritchard. Ignition problems early in the rally and 40s of road penalties left the Northern Irishman fighting back and his pace on Saturday was awesome as he got back to within 10s of the leader. But with two stages to go his oil pressure dropped and hopes of victory fell away.
Barrett went ahead on the Thursday evening leg of three stages, but right with him was fellow Ford Escort Mk2 driver Will Onions and co-driver Jamie Edwards at the start of a mighty performance. Guy Woodcock and Richard Skinner were in there as well, but engine failure on Friday morning ended their rally.
Through a long, tough Friday, which ended after midnight for many crews, Pritchard set the pace he needed and was ahead at the main service halt to secure a first BHRC maximum with eight seconds in hand over Barrett. By the end of the night, Barrett’s road penalties handed Pritchard a 30s lead for Saturday.
Barrett bravely pulled back 15s on the difficult four-mile Snuff the Wind test and arrived at final service only 10s down on Pritchard with 27 stages miles to run. But the oil pressure vanished and his rally was over after a storming drive.
Pritchard was then able to set a measured pace over the final two stages to complete a weekend that puts him firmly back in the BHRC ascendency. Lack of a clutch over the closing stages didn’t prevent Onions from taking a fine second place on only his second rally of the year, though he admitted that Pritchard and Barrett were in a different league.
Another star performance came from the elder Barrett brother, Paul, and co-driver Dai Roberts in their Pintopowered Escort Mk2 to take third overall and confirm their place as the big BHRC rival to Pritchard. “It’s a brilliant rally and Pinto won’t go any harder,” said Barrett, who took a few stages to find his true pace at the start of the rally.
Two local BMW crews ran within the historic section and Kex Walker/ Dannii Matthews were as quick and spectacular as ever on the way to fourth, while Andrew and Jamie-lee Fox were seventh.
Fifth overall was a triumph over adversity for Will Rowlands and Llion Williams (Escort Mk2) who lost the alternator and clutch on Friday night and a second clutch near the finish, but still delivered a great result, while Belgian visitors Christophe Jacob and Isabelle Regnier took a mighty sixth on their maiden island rally.
Three more Ford Escort crews packed out the top 10 with fine performances and for Shawn Rayner/declan Dear it was a first Manx finish at the third attempt. Declan Jackson/barry Mccarney and Mark Holmes/mark Perryman completed the top 10 while Stanley Orr/guy Weaver were a Friday casualty with two broken rockers in their Pinto engine.
Despite losing more than 10 minutes with a late trip into a ditch, Simon Tysoe and Paul Morris sealed the BHRC Category 2 victory in their Ford Escort Mk1, while Bob and Dale Gibbons (Ford Cortina Mk2 GT) had a tremendous rally to take Category 1 in both the rally and the BHRC. The father and son team overcame a strong Category 1 field to head Dessie Nutt and Geraldine Mcbride (Porsche 911) by a handy margin.
A marvellous Mini field for the Old Stager Championship was topped by Colin Mcdowell/cameron Rawson, who threw their car around in style to be first Mini home.
After poor luck Pritchard finally won