Isle of Man
1. Howard Warren / Iain Tullie - Porsche 911 2. Matthew Warren / Ryan Pickering - Ford Escort 3. Paul Crosby / Ali Procter - Porsche 911
From the tarmac which has supported so many famous riders in past epic T.T.’s, crews started their own two day contest in the HERO Cup for drivers and the Golden Roamer Award for navigators.
The competitors went straight from the pit lane into two tests behind the TT Grandstand on a mix of tarmac and concrete.
First away were one of the event favourites, Howard Warren and Iain Tullie in their orange Porsche 911 danced its way around the course. Paul Crosby and Ali Procter pirouetted their way around the tight markers in the distinctive 911.
Ed Abbott and Paul Bosdet in the XJS 12 made the impossible look possible as they powered the big Jaguar around the course.
Onto the end of Marine Drive around the dramatic piece of road hugging the rocks with the Irish sea on the outside for company. A real test for crews here as they dodged the kerbs and rock face, sprinting to the finish but not before a tight slalom called for controlled driving just before the finish.
Cleyndert and Taylor were clearly enjoying the handling delights of their Morris Mini Cooper S on this test, the first time on the Ilse of Man for Bill and the first time he has paired up with navigator Martyn Taylor. The VW Golf GTI’s of Thomas and Roger Bricknell, Richard Isherwood and Ian Canavan both looked fast and could just be the dark horses of the rally.
Neil Wilson with top navigator Matthew Vokes alongside looked smooth and fast in the Porsche 924 as the exited a fast right hander on the closed road test. The BMW 2002TII driven by Richard Broughton and navigated by Elise Whyte looked sure footed as it urgently changed direction in the slalom before the finish.
Tony Sheach and Rachel Sheffield were loud and powerful until the alternator failed, cooking the battery, rendering the trip meter useless in their Triumph 2000. Resourceful as ever, Tony bought a new battery from a car showroom and managed to get the car to lunch halt for some attention by mechanical crews who were changing the alternator.
John Kiff reached the end of the test with a very high revving VW Beetle engine so he jumped out to find the linkage had come adrift and made a temporary repair. He also made it to lunch for further attention.
Car 20, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint sounded crisp and rorty, the distinctive long grey locks identifying the driver as Rob Dance with navigator Bob Rutherford alongside, but then the car kept stopping and proved difficult to start as Rob said “I think it’s electrical,” as he took the distributor cap off. He made it to the lunch halt after the test at Port Erin to receive mechanical assistance. A new component fixed the misfire.
Back at the TT Grandstand for a further two tests during the morning, Darren Everitt and Susan Dixon were spectacular as they whirled the Triumph 2000 around in a haze of tyre smoke. Darren was working hard at the wheel but still wearing his sports jacket despite the efforts.
The VW of Richard Harrison and Peter Boyce was spraying fuel from the filler as it slewed round the course whilst the low slung Mercedes 190E of Malcolm Dunderdale and Anita Wickens squealed tyres as they were tortured around the test. Matthew Abrey and Claire Gillies were really pushing their Mini hard at the Grandstand as their tyres were smoking at regular intervals.
The Provisional overall positions at TC 1/4 Abbey, showed Thomas and Roger Bricknell leading in the VW Golf GTI with Matt Warren and Ryan Pickering hot on their heels in the Ford Escort. At that point Bill Cleyndert was up to third on his first visit to the Isle of Man navigated by former Golden Roamer Award winner, Martyn Taylor.
With many long hours of hard driving to go through until midnight Porsche driver Howard Warren summed up most people’s feelings, ”It’s been great so far, really enjoyable but there is a long way to go.
Howard Warren and Iain Tullie engaged in a fierce battle with Howard’s son Matthew and navigator Ryan Pickering for the lead with Howard’s red Porsche 911 just two seconds to the good over Matthew’s Ford Escort.
But right with Matthew on the same time was I.O.M. ‘newbie’ Bill Cleyndert with championship winning navigator Martyn Taylor doing a cracking job as the two have partnered up for the first time in the Morris Mini Cooper S.
But by the time the teams arrived at Creg-Ny-Baa for the meal halt, Matthew Warren’s Escort had snatched the lead from his father Howard and Bill Cleyndert had moved up to second. Howard Warren and Iain Tullie were just three seconds behind in third place with Paul Crosby and Ali Procter another three seconds down in their green Porsche 911. Sensationally on the same time as Crosby was Neil Wilson with winning navigator Matthew Vokes on the maps in the Porsche 924, this despite the duo clattering through a plantation regularity with the rear exhaust box hanging off.
It was all very close going into the dark and foreboding Leg 2.
Bill Cleyndert was very pleased with his second place on his first visit to the island but was keeping a lid on his excitement. “ I am loving the Isle of Man and want to come back for more, but I’m keeping stum on our prospects as all the navigators seem very nervous about the difficult night ahead. I’m told it’s hard driving and tough navigation, I just hope to come out the other side!”
As crews set off into the inky black night for five regularities and five time control sections, it was clear that a combination of skillful driving and astute navigation would be the way to get through the tough night successfully.
Some crews were thriving, some were just surviving.
Klaus Mueller and Rolf Pellini dropped their Lancia Fulvia into a ditch when trying to move over for another competitor and had to wait for the rescue team to pull them out. “But we were lucky” said Klaus, “we took a short cut that took us directly to the next timing point without missing a control, we were back in. We love the HERO events in UK, they are great fun. We don’t have single track roads or forest tracks like these to use in Europe and the combination of tests, regularities and time control sections make them very special.”
Other survivors include Nigel Abbott and Ian Ocego in their MGB who stopped at the lunch halt but managed to order new parts which when fitted will allow them back for day two. The MG Midget of Richard and Susan Watkinson, on their very first event has sadly encountered many technical difficulties but managed to get to rally HQ for repairs. Susan starred on Zoe Ball’s Radio 2 Breakfast Show on Thursday before the event talking about classic rallying and the Three Legs of Mann, Zoe said she owned a Triumph Stag, so Susan promptly suggested that she should consider taking part in a future event!
Andy Lane who normally drives, has swapped to the navigators role this season, sitting alongside Roy Stephenson in a mighty Ford Mustang, a big car for any event never mind the narrow Manx lanes. “It’s not entirely suitable but at least I’ve found my way so far, it’s tough this navigating lark!”
As the teams still battle late into the night, some are recalling the superb rally routes already encountered today. The Three Legs of Mann has covered some of the hallowed ground of former Manx International rallies, such as the famous Druidale. Paul Crosby and Ali Procter loved the route, especially after a Land Rover and trailer moved over to let them past on the narrow winding tarmac track. Nor so fortunate was Nick Bloxham and Niall Frost in the Escort. As they approached the much photographed uphill hairpins, they encountered the same Land Rover but were forced to follow it over the cattle grid before they could pass, time lost but well spent on the legendary course.
Overall positions as Bill Cleyndert feared, had changed part way through the difficult night. Matthew Warren continued to lead but Howard Warren and Iain Tullie had stormed back to second with Matthew Wilson continuing his rapid rise with Matthew Vokes to third in the Porsche 924, the exhaust now strapped back in place.
Paul Crosby and Ali Procter were fourth with Bill Cleyndert and Martyn Taylor dropping to fifth.
Provisionally on return at the end of Leg 2, Matthew Warren and Ryan Pickering are holding the overnight lead. Howard Warren is second behind his son and said tonight: “ There is still plenty of time tomorrow to catch up, I’ll give it a good go tomorrow.”
Paul Crosby and Ali Procter were third in their 911 but Neil Wilson said he was pleasantly surprised by his climb up the leader board to fourth in the Porsche 924, “ it’s a bit of a surprise but then I have a really great navigator beside me in Matthew Vokes, but yes its been a nice steady climb. The last time I was here in the Palace Hotel was when Russell Brookes and I won the Manx International Rally, in 1991. As you can understand it brought back great memories going over Druidale again.”
Bill Cleyndert dropped some time after navigator Martyn Taylor admitted to making a mistake. He was also hoarse after all the shouting. “I’ve been shouting all day and night to be heard above the whining diff in the Cooper S. But this event has been another tough one, Guy has thrown everything into it, even the kitchen sink.”
Richard Lambley ended up pushing the Volvo Amazon with driver Shaun Arnold after a little off in the challenging conditions of the plantations deep into the night.” It was a bit rough in parts and soft going at times, the car took a hammering but we are still in there despite dropping some time.”
Overnight leader Matthew Warren and Ryan Pickering agreed it had been a tough but satisfying night, but as Matthew said the conditions in the dark speeding through the plantations were “like being on Mars, it was amazing”.
Now we wait for the big Warren family battle for honours on the final day of Three Legs of Mann.
Paul Crosby, Neil Wilson and the Nick Bloxham who climbed back up the leader board to fifth after some technical problems, are all hoping to spoil the Warren road show in the final Leg.
A fierce battle raged between Howard Warren and navigator Iain Tullie in their orange Porsche 911 throughout the rally and son Matthew Warren and navigator Ryan Pickering in their red Ford Escort. The family teams had swopped the lead during the rally with Matthew edging away at the end of a ‘Hard Day’s Night’ over slippy forest tracks and a tight bewildering variety of lanes lashed by rain.
Drama unfolded on the last day as Matthew started to encounter clutch problems. Time was lost as the slave cylinder pushrod broke, but navigator Ryan Pickering was quick witted, stopping to find some bits that had fallen off, managing to coax the Escort back to the Jurby halt. Ryan found the HERO Assistance team who made a new bolt launching the crew back into the fray. Ryan reckoned they could still be in the contest at the time, “ I reckon we’ve dropped around one minute thirty seconds so we might be still in the top three?” In fact, they left for the final tests dead level!
Father and son had to battle over four tests at Jurby then a long regularity described by winner Howard Warren as ‘the sting in the tail’ with a final two tests at the TT Grandstand. The tension continued as the two crews were parked close at the finish in the TT course pit lane, not knowing the results until they were made final at event HQ an hour later. Howard had beaten his son Matthew by just 14 seconds!
“ I am really pleased but I had no idea what the verdict would be, Matthew and I have competed against each other for over nine years, but this was probably the most tense and close for a long while.”
Matthew had been able to come to terms with the close call on victory later on: “ I’ll get over it, I needed to give him one or two anyway, but I’m happy to finish second and keep it in the family.”
After 26 tests, 22 regularities, and demanding time controls covering 400 miles, 37 out of the 46 starters who finished the tough rally, congratulating each other in the TT pit lane at the finish. Amongst them a relieved Paul Crosby with navigator Ali Procter managing a podium for third despite severe brake issues in Leg 3. The failure threatened to end their rally when a brake pipe broke on their Porsche 911, said Paul; “ the brake pedal went to the floor, it could have ended badly.”
Ali Procter added: “ We were really lucky to be able to get to the HERO Assist crew who patched us up meaning our position was unaffected!” Crosby and Procter finished one minute sixteen seconds behind Matthew Warren.
Neil Wilson drove superbly throughout using the skills of sharp young champion navigator Matthew Vokes in their Porsche 924, to take fourth place. As an ex-top special stage co-driver, winning the Manx Rally here with Russell Brookes in 1991, this result meant a lot to Neil:”
The biggest smile by miles on the Isle of Man belonged to Mini Cooper S driver Bill Cleyndert on his first visit to the island, taking a fantastic fifth place and a class win navigated by former Golden Roamer winner Martyn Taylor: “Honestly, I couldn’t stop smiling, even laughing sometimes as I enjoyed it so much. The night action, the narrow lanes, the plantations, the Mini was well suited to them. We lost out a bit to the more powerful cars on the tests, but what an event. I’ll be back!”
Noel Kelly took a very strong sixth place navigated by Peter Johnson in the Volvo 122S, the crew always seemed to be in contention although Isle of Man resident Noel said it wasn’t all plain sailing.
“We had a few issues earlier today, although it improved later on. I was asked if local knowledge helped, and it does when you know your way around but you still need to perform well and the car must last the distance, which she did. Peter and I are very pleased.” They also won Class 1.
Another Manx resident David Morgan was very pleased with his seventh place, navigated by Leigh Powley, who can normally be found in the hot seat of a vintage rally Bentley. The duo worked well together, David having taken a podium here in 2017.
An absolutely startling performance was achieved by ex Jaguar development engineer and racer Ed Abbott navigated by the very accomplished Paul Bosdet, to take eighth. The noise of the Jaguar V12 alone was enough to stir the soul, despite it’s none suitability for the ‘lanes’, Ed asserted that the car was “well engineered.”
Nick Bloxham and Niall Frost scored a super ninth place overall, having been up and down the leaderboard with various issues. Nick who is also a star navigator drove hard and well, despite still nursing an injured foot. Niall and Nick won class four in the Escort Mexico.
Navigator Richard Lambley reckoned he and Volvo Amazon driver Shaun Arnold would do well to get into the top ten after a difficult Friday night when they even had to push the car after an off. But they made it just outside in 11th with a fine climb up the order on the last leg. Said Shaun;” the car took a few knocks, some parts of the route were a bit rough for these old cars, but the Volvo did it. There are quite a few who didn’t make it. We are both really happy to be in top twelve.”
Whilst the top crews enjoyed the incredibly close competition many were happy just to finish this tough event.
Chris Woodhead and Robert Walker were 31st and fifth in class 1, but the real back of the pack heroes were Richard and Susan Watkinson who gamely persevered against all the mechanical and navigational odds in their Austin Healey Sprite in 37th place, eighth in class. Susan was clearly delighted to finish her first ever rally in her 70th year, as she waved furiously to the support crews when she crossed the finish line with husband Richard at the TT Grandstand.
Equally, John and Tracy King deserved their fifth in class finish in the Triumph Dolomite Sprint after only their second full event. “We chose one of the toughest events, perhaps it was a bit too adventurous said John who reveled in the handling of his ‘Dolly Sprint’ throwing her around at every opportunity. Wife Tracy was just relieved to finish: “ We have finished another one, although this was very tough we are learning all the time.”
A great sight on the rally, over forest tracks, tight tarmac or on the loose was the incredible Mercedes 190E Cosworth of Malcolm Dunderdale and navigator Anita Wickens. The low slung Merc looked more like it should have been on a race track but somehow despite it taking a real battering the crew still finished 30th and fourth in class. However, just after an interview with a video crew, the gear linkage broke! Said Anita; “ I think they were a jinx! Luckily the HERO Assist crew were nearby and the team were able to get back not the competition.
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