The Three Legs of Mann Rally 2017 was held 16-18 of March on the Isle of Man, the island in the Irish Sea off the coasts of Lancashire, Galloway, Northern Ireland and North Wales. A field of 56 historic car teams challenged this year’s Historic Endurance Rallying Organisation (HERO) event featuring stages that included everything from creek crossings to fantastic ribbons of paved and unpaved roads accompanied by surreal views.
Starting from a wet and windy TT Grandstand, the Three Legs of Mann 2017 presented all those taking part in the event with a tough challenge from the moment the flag dropped. Leading the crews away was 2010 winner Charles Colton who was partnered on the event by Richard Bestwick. Colton’s 2010 partner-in-crime Guy Woodcock was instrumental in running the event as assistant Clerk of the Course to George Mullings; who also has an uncanny knack of putting together successful and challenging regularity events.
The event had been oversubscribed for some time with quality crews and vehicles coming from all corners of Europe to compete in the motorsport Mecca of the Isle of Mann. Despite the event having and advanced classification, several newcomers took part — with some sporting and eclectic machinery. Ed Abbott brought his stunning Jaguar XJ-S V12 to compete. The experienced Andrew Duerden was a little skeptical about the choice of machinery that Ed had asked him to sit in. However, by the end of the event the big Jaguar had turned many heads with the turn of speed and nimble nature for its size.
Recent years have seen an upturn in the number of early to mid-1980’s vehicles taking part and this HERO event did not buck that trend. In just his second-ever event, Richard Isherwood brought his Simon Mellings-prepared Nissan Stanza to the Island; aided and abetted by the ever-jovial Ian Canavan, this new pairing put in one of the performances of the Three Legs of Mann Rally 2017.
A total of 56 starters left Pit Lane on Glencrutchery Road and made their way immediately into two driving tests before a run over West Baldwin and Injebreck saw the finish of regularity one at Barregarrow. Paul Crosby and Ali Procter were in a determined mood and despite Ali feeling a little under the weather they set some very quick times on the driving tests and some very clean times on the regularities. Geoff Hall and Martyn Taylor were also in impressive form, while a puncture at the end of test three caused them to drop 25 seconds in penalties at the first timing point and left them playing catch-up for most of the remainder of the leg.
The event used several forms of navigation with approach and departs to specified points featuring prominently in the first leg. This was interspersed with Jogularity sections to keep things interesting for the navigators. Father and son team Nick and Andy Pullan were going well in their diminutive Hillman Imp and embarrassing some more modern and powerful machinery. Lunch at Ballasala saw Dermot Carnegie and Paul Bosdet in the lead by two seconds over Howard Warren and Nick Bloxham, who in turn held Paul Crosby and Ali Procter by the same margin. The morning driving tests had suited Carnegie but a navigational error from Bosdet in the forests later in the day would cost them dearly. The afternoon section started by running up the west side of the Island with regularity 1/3 – Ronague, this was the first true test of the navigators with jogularity style instructions being provided. Those who tried to make the route work on the map were frustrated by a straight on at junction which had no roads. Closer inspection saw that the bridleway had good standing and that it was best to follow the jogularity instructions straight from the book.
Into Jurby Airfield and a block of tests broken up by a regularity saw the next data collect and a change in the leaders with Matt Warren and Ryan Pickering on a charge and putting in some outstanding test times that would eventually see the Ford Escort man take the Test Pilot Award. Second were Crosby and Procter and in third were Carnegie and Bosdet; quietly coming through the ranks were Peter Lovett and Rob Henchoz in their rapid Porsche 911. Lovett is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with and the last three events he has competed on have seen huge improvements in his time and confidence in the car.
The final regularity of the daylight section brought the Three Legs of Mann Rally 2017 into Creg-ny-Baa (In Celtic, the translation is literally ‘Cow on a Rock’) via a great regularity section around Baldrine and Conrhenny Plantation. This caught several competitors napping with a relatively straight-forward approach and depart set of instructions interspersed with an overlay of Conrhenny and the correct route. Carnegie and Bosdet, Warren and Pickering and Ed Abbot and Andrew Duerden all went wrong here costing them many penalties. There were quite a few red faces at Creg-ny-Baa with some not entering the plantation at all. Paul Crosby and Ali Procter stormed into the lead with Howard Warren and Nick Bloxham 25 seconds behind them. John Abel, three-times winner of the Royal Automobile Club 1000 Mile Trial, had climbed into third and partnered by the ultra-experienced Mark Appleton. They were a crew to be watched.
The rain and wind were once again in evidence as crews left Creg-ny-Baa and headed into the twilight. This would make the following sections even trickier to navigate and the first section was back onto the loose of Conrhenny. This time the instructions were tulip based and with being off the public highway, the timing points could be placed at less than two miles apart. A nippy 29 miles an hour average was set with two timing points within 1.3 miles, fully utilising the land and rules. The next timing point was at 3.29 miles and firmly kept the crews on their toes trying to pre-guess where it would be. One more regularity took crews to a brief rest halt at The Guard House Café close to Jurby Airfield before what would be the pivotal action of the event and turn the leader board upside down — the nighttime TC section.
Setting off in the dark, the inclement weather added to the atmosphere on Jurby airfield. The points that were visible in the day light were now obscured, a daunting run between the industrial buildings and featureless runways caused problems for many. Amongst these were Howard Warren and Nick Bloxham, Roger Powley and Leigh Powley and Stephen Owens and Ian Mitchell all dropping large amounts of time here whilst Abel and Appleton, Geoff Hall and Martyn Taylor and Crosby and Procter all shone in the first part. However, a missed PC at Ronague cost Crosby and Procter two and a half minutes and would eventually contribute to them taking fourth overall.
Saturday morning brought the third and final leg which included some sections over the classic Manx roads of Druidale and Sulby Glen before the final reverse run over Druidale and down through Injebreck to two tests at the TT Grandstands. Over the past couple of months, mechanical issues and results queries had dealt severe blows to John Abel on other events. This one was not escaping his grasp as he and Mark Appleton took the win by 1:58 seconds from Geoff Hall and Martyn Taylor in their superb sounding Mini. In third were David Morgan and Richard Crozier who held Paul Crosby and Ali Procter by four seconds, Crosby and Procter cruelly denied third by being held up on the final regularity section by local traffic. Fifth went to the Mini of Kevin Haselden and Bart den Hartog who had battled well all weekend and ended up with a fine class win.
Three Legs of Mann Rally 2017 – Photo Gallery (photos: Francesco Rastrelli and Roberta Roccati)
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[Source: HERO; photos: Francesco Rastrelli and Roberta Roccati]