RALLY ISLE OF MAN
When: September 14-16 Where: Douglas, Isle of Man Web: rallyisleofman.co.im Colin Mcrae, Henri Toivonen, Ari Vatanen. No, we aren’t naming World Rally champions, but winners of the Manx. Rally Isle of Man. The standard really is that high.
It’s a test some of the world’s best drivers have failed to conquer and one that should underpin every rally fan’s calendar. It isn’t the easiest or cheapest to get to, but you’ll be rewarded if you can head to Douglas for one of the best national rallies of the year.
Fast, narrow and bumpy lanes are made more difficult by changeable weather and differing elevation. Flat-out trips over the moors make it a challenge to behold. Last year’s entry, punctuated by the return of the British Rally Championship, was one of the best in years, and there’s no reason why this year’s won’t mirror that.
The event is pretty much a double whammy, as along with the R5 cars of the British championship, there’s one of the strongest historic rallies anywhere in the world running alongside, on the same roads and timetable. The usual BDA Ford Escorts, Ferraris, Porsches and varying Opels and Vauxhalls to boot. The event even attracts a host of Minis from Japanese entries and drivers, showing the event is well worth travelling thousands of miles for.
Results: 2003 (5th), 2004 (6th) “The Formula Renault title got me into the Renault Driver Development scheme and helped me move into F3 with Hitech and team head David Hayle, who was great to work with,” says Watts.
“Renault set me the target of finishing at least third in the championship, and I came fifth, so I was dropped the next year! Looking back I could have applied myself more, I was young and a bit naive and probably a bit too much partying and high life got in the way of the racing, but I still had a great year.
“I did win at Castle Combe and became quite a specialist there in F3. I signed for Promatecme for 2004 and got involved with the new LolaDome F106/4 programme. That was a massive year as the car was new and we were developing it as we went. F3 I always say is the university for a driver. It opens your eyes to what car changes do and racing with high downforce and resets your parameters as a driver. Developing the Lola was great too as it got me thinking beyond just the driving aspects of the sport.
“Nobody expected the Lola to be fast, but I won in it at Combe and ended an 11-year Dallara winning streak in British F3. We took three more podiums and wound up sixth in the points. Dome then brought me to Japan for a month to develop its F3 car for the Japanese championship, which was great. Sadly I didn’t get a drive with them for 2005, so I was out on my arse a bit that year.”
From R5 cars to Minis, the Manx is a top test
Watts took victory in F3 Lola-dome