RALLY ISLE OF MAN

Motor Sport News - - Insight: Things To See In ’17 - Jack Benyon

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

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