UK: David Mann Manx Rally preview

East Anglia's leading rally driver David Mann returns to the scene of his greatest triumph hoping that it will kick-start his thus-far beleaguered defence of the Kumho Tyres National Rally Championship. Flixton mushroom farmer Mann and...

East Anglia's leading rally driver David Mann returns to the scene of his greatest triumph hoping that it will kick-start his thus-far beleaguered defence of the Kumho Tyres National Rally Championship.

Flixton mushroom farmer Mann and Welsh co-driver Alun Cook travel to the motorsport mecca of the Isle of Man for the Roush Manx National Rally (May 7/8) with the number one plate affixed to their Kumho-backed Ace Motorsport Subaru Impreza WRC, after storming to victory in the event 12 months ago.

The success was a springboard to further success as they went on the secure their first national titles, but this year's defence has so far been beset with problems.

Mechanical misfortune on last month's Astra Stages Rally has left the pair with a mountain the size of the Island's famous Snaefell to climb if they are to defend their crowns, but Mann is determined to channel his frustration into doing well on what he admits is his favourite event on the seven round calendar.

"I'm confident that we have solved the problem but I won't get a chance to have a run in the car before we go to the Isle of Man, so my main concern is still not having many miles in the new car," says the Suffolk-based father of three.

"You might say car number one is a "learner" but, after two disastrous rounds, we know we need to take maximum points from this rally to get back into contention for the championship. Although we are car number one, we are probably the underdogs at the moment."

The Manx National is one of only a handful of events in the UK to take place on closed public roads and, with a total of 120 stage miles, it is over 50% longer than most in the hugely popular Kumho series.

Combined with three other championships, the event has attracted a capacity 140-car entry, who will all follow Mann's Subaru off of the start ramp in Port Erin from 7.30pm onwards on Friday evening.

After a short opening leg in the fading light (and dark for the later runners!), the Manx Rally reconvenes on Saturday morning in Douglas with the finish due back at the famous TT Grandstand in the Island's capital midway through the afternoon. Mann describes what lies ahead, saying:

"It's a longer rally than most and much more critical. You have to be neat and tidy because a lot of the roads are very narrow and bumpy and are lined with brick walls and steep banks so if you make a mistake it will punish you.

"Even if you don't have a big accident it's very easy to clip and bank and bend the steering so you have to be so accurate. It can be the end if it happens in the wrong place.

"But I've been coming to the Isle of Man to rally for over 20 years and I love it - it's a good tough rally but you have to treat it with the utmost respect. If you don't it's guaranteed to bite you back!"

Andy Card and his Ace Motorsport crew will be tending the car throughout the event from the service park behind the TT Grandstand, while Mann and Cook have received a welcome eve-of-rally boost by picking up new support from the Anglo American Oil Company. They

helped Yorkshire's Jonny Milner to the 2003 British Championship and will now supply Mann's Subaru with RFT fuel and 76 Lubricants.

-dm-

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