The 60th anniversary of the Manx Trophy Rally, the first competitive rally on the Isle of Man, is to be celebrated in the best way possible with a fierce contest of the best road rally regularity crews in the business on the Three Legs of Mann Rally 2023. (17-18 March)
Starting at the most appropriate venue possible on this island of motor sport heritage, the TT pits and pit lane, just about every champion, gold medal winner or winner of major regularity rallies are entered in this tough two-day contest across numerous regs and 26 tests, that have attracted international entries from 10 countries including Europe, Brazil and the USA.
The lure of the Island of Speed with its legendary challenges has produced an entry bristling with winners from all corners, most of them seeking the full-on competition that the very I.O.M. motor sport names conjure up, from Manx rallies to the HERO-ERA Three Legs of Mann; Injebreck, Tholt-a-Will, the Curraghs, Druidale, Foxdale and Jurby. The famous rally tracks often crisscrossing, and occasionally using parts of the infamous TT motorcycle course where names such as the Gooseneck, Creg- ny- Baa or Ballaugh Bridge set the nerves jangling.
This anniversary celebrating event is not just about the champions and names from rally folklore, there are the cars from the evocative eras to make the picture complete. There are the Volvos, like the PV544, the P1800’s, Lancia Fulvia Coupes, even a Hillman Imp from a time gone by. But amongst them is a famous Mini called the Orangebox entered here by Mini racer and preparer Andy ‘Ace’ Harrison for Henry Carr to navigate its new owner after former HRCR National Champion Steve Entwistle won the title in the Orangebox and eventually sold the car to Andy.
Roy Mapple and Graham Marrs originally went to the IOM in 1964, in Orangebox, to run as a course car, as an invite as quite a few Manx competitors had competed on the Shunpiker National/Motoring News rally earlier in the year, Graham Marrs was CoC of this event. The Manx was then backed by the Daily Mail newspaper.
In 1966 Roy went back in Orangebox MK2 with Tony Mason in the lefthand seat. They were the first car away from the start ramp in Douglas. Although Roy was not a fan of daylight stages, preferring the dark, and having only 970cc amongst the Cortina’s and 1275 Minis, he set FTD’s on some stages, only losing out on long climbs. They finished 6th overall and had the smallest engine capacity in the final top ten.
History will repeat itself if Andy and Henry manage a top-six placing against the tough opposition.
Thomas Koemer, Porsche 911. “Actually, I drove with my little Porsche here in 1997 and 2000 in the Manx International Rally. So, the same car, the same driver as 25 years ago!
“Yeah, it’s a really crazy rally because the roads are so narrow. Both mirrors have contact to the bushes at the same time. And you go really fast, and the roads are bumpy, but you have to get used to it. It’s the locals who have a big advantage. I think so anyway!
“Of course, it is also about the TT, but I’m not a motorcyclist. I am a bit more motocross, but it is pretty popular. I think it’s absolutely crazy. I cannot understand it. You know, when they go sideways, jump over bridges and through the village with 200 K’s, for me it’s unbelievable. I do crazy things but not things like that.
“I want to have a nice finish, but there are so many famous drivers and so many famous co-drivers. Very difficult, and I think because the island is so small, and we have 26 tests and many regularities that they go ahead boom, boom, test, regularity, test, test, test regularly and no large link sections. I think it’s pretty tough.”
It is really difficult to predict a winner as the star-studded entry list tells you it could be any of a dozen crews, all with winning credentials.
Andy Lane and Iain Tullie (BMW) are both winners and gold medalists whilst car two of Dan Willan and Mark Appleton (Volvo) have won the RAC Rally of the Tests six times between them, Dan just last year when he also won the national championship!
Paul Crosby and Ali Procter (Porsche) are winners, Paul a multi-time champion. Right behind them at car four are Paul Dyas and Martin Taylor, winners and gold medalists who had such a fight with Dan Willan and Niall Frost in the 2022 RAC Rally of the Tests, finishing runners up – just. Niall Frost is navigating champion-making navigator Nick Bloxham this time in his Ford Escort Mexico, Nick having been the navigational brains behind the HERO Cup Champion in 2022, Stephen Owens, who is also entered! Nick drives as well as navigates and is very competitive – he and Niall are definitely the dark horses.
There are champions Paul Bloxidge and Ian Canavan (VW), Pete Johnson Golden Roamer Champion 2022 (Volvo), Jayne Wignall HERO Cup Champion, winners Nicky and Darell Staniforth in their highly competitive Toyota Corolla and Thomas and Roger Bricknell in the VW. Roger is a former Golden Roamer Champion. Klaus Mueller from Germany is here fresh from his hard-earned second place on the Winter Challenge to Monte Carlo this January in his Lancia Fulvia.
Gold medal winner Emily Anderson is navigating 2022 Sahara Challenge winner Bill Cleyndert in their forty Mini Cooper S.
Top special stage rally winner and Isle of Man resident Adrian Kermode will compete in his first regularity rally for a long time in his Mini 1275 Leyland navigated by Andy Darlington who was one of a group of UK-based teams caught out by cancelled flights to the Isle of Man due to the mist and fog over the island. Some have had to resort to ferries and may arrive a few hours before the start!
Adrian Kermode, British Leyland Mini, 1275. “It’s the best place in the world to go rallying, isn’t it? Closed roads have been a feature of island sport for many, many years since the start of the TT. So, it’s just an amazing place to go to for any motorsport really but rallying in particular. There are some fantastic classic stages that haven’t changed for 10’s of years, you know, great places to go rallying.
“And the mist in the rain? There’s an old saying in the Isle of Man, if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute, because normally within a minute everything changes! However, it has been lingering around a bit today, my co-driver should have been here this morning, as we speak now his plane is completely cancelled due to the fog and he’s trying to get Logan Air flight. So, he should be here hopefully by eight o’clock this evening. As long as he gets here, we’ll be OK.
“If there’re no flights from the UK, if they’re all cancelled, he might have to get up to Heysham and get the boat which should leave at two, which means he’d get in at six. So, he will be quite tired tomorrow, but let’s keep our fingers crossed for the flight!
“This is the first one of these events I’ve done. I did a regularity rally in Cheshire near Chester about six years ago. So, I have a rough idea of what to do but I haven’t got the faintest really, this is all new to me. We’ll see how it goes!”