Champion Mann Still Seeking The Sun after Wintery Opener A straw bale and a faulty immobiliser made for a long and frustrating weekend away on the south coast as David Mann began his defence of the Kumho Tyres National Rally Championship at the...
Champion Mann Still Seeking The Sun after Wintery Opener
A straw bale and a faulty immobiliser made for a long and frustrating weekend away on the south coast as David Mann began his defence of the Kumho Tyres National Rally Championship at the Rallye Sunseeker.
Flixton mushroom farmer Mann, who travelled to Bournemouth last Thursday for Saturday's (February 28) opening round, eventually returned to his home late on Sunday night reflecting on what he mildly described as a "character building" few days.
He was left to reflect on spending most of the 16-stage mixed surface event battling back up the leaderboard in his new Kumho Tyres-backed Subaru Impreza World Rally Car after a costly mistake on stage three - Hurn South - saw himself and Welsh co-driver Alun Cook (Caerphilly) beached on straw bale.
And Mann had plenty of time to think about the brave charge which eventually hoisted their Ace Motorsport prepared car up to 21st overall and 3rd in its class as he was then forced to return to Suffolk on the back of a tow-truck after the immobiliser of his road car failed on Sunday morning!
The 2003 Championship-winning duo got away to good start - lying sixth overnight - barely eight seconds off the pace after safely negotiating two short night stages (IMAX Seward 1 and 2) on Friday along Bournemouth seafront.
But immediately they ventured inland onto Saturday's snow and ice encrusted gravel stages, things rapidly began to go wrong. Mann recalls:
"Kumho cut extra grooves in the tyres and that gave us the grip we were looking for.
"But we went off the start line on Stage three and the first time I had to brake hard was for a chicane made out of huge straw bales.
"I misjudged my braking and we got stuck on top of one of these bales, so we had to rock the car backwards and forwards to get off of it and get going again."
The error cost Mann and Cook around 45 seconds on the front-runners - a huge amount on a rally which is comprised of many short stages - and relegated them to 60th place.
Mann, who had only driven the recently acquired Subaru WRC once before the rally, admitted:
"Happening so early probably knocked my confidence in the new car a bit and the conditions were made really treacherous by the snow and ice.
"It wasn't the ideal circumstances to learn the characteristics of the car, which are quite different to our old Subaru, and it's always a lot harder to catch up time when the rally is made up of a lot of short stages rather than a few long ones."
Nevertheless Mann steadily stepped up the pace throughout the remainder of the day, hammering home top ten times on each of the last three stages, including third fastest overall on the final test - Somerley North - a mere seven second behind quickest man and eventual Rallye Sunseeker winner Roger Duckworth, to salvage a handful of championship points.
"I still need more time driving the car," concluded Mann, who has until April 3 before the second round - the Astra Stages Rally in Wales. "It was encouraging to finish with a third-fastest time and get some points and as we only count the best six results from the seven events there's still plenty of time to make amends, albeit that's our 'life' gone so now we can't afford any more major setbacks."
Mann and Cook will also be heartened by fellow championship favourites Marcus Dodd and Andrew Burton's failure to score - both crashing out of an event local star Dodd has won four times in the previous five years.
And to signal that the forecast could be much brighter, although adding 'insult to immediate injury', Mann recalls: "After spending most of Sunday playing around with my road car, waiting for and then getting home in a breakdown vehicle, we pushed the car into the garage and I tried it one more time. and it started straight away!"