UK: Fiat Stilo Rally summary

Woffinden Takes Win Number One Manx International Rally 29 -- 31 July 2004 The longest event of the 2004 Fiat Stilo Rally Cup witnessed highs and lows for the five championship contenders as the top spot changed four times before the ...

Woffinden Takes Win Number One

Manx International Rally 29 -- 31 July 2004

The longest event of the 2004 Fiat Stilo Rally Cup witnessed highs and lows for the five championship contenders as the top spot changed four times before the finish.

The usual unpredictable Isle of Man weather played a part in the titanic struggle for overall honours as the crews tackled the first five stages on Thursday evening. The first two stages before service comprised a short spectator stage immediately after the start in Ramsey followed by the 7.88 mile Cornaa stage. Joint championship leader Chris Davies set out his stall taking the opening stage win in perfect conditions with fellow Abergavenny driver Paul Tod just 0.2 seconds down. Less than five seconds separated the drivers as they approached stage two but the leaderboard had a different complexion when they arrived at service. Willie Bonniwell was not about to let Davies get away so easily and he set a storming pace, nearly ten seconds clear of closest man Shaun Woffinden. Davies followed with Tom Metcalfe suffering a misfire and Tod losing confidence when he clipped a bank, taking on some mud in the front wheel.

Two runs through the traditional Castletown stage followed service, but the heavens opened and with darkness falling these two stages and the final stage of the leg had crews frantically cutting tyres to wet pattern in an effort to find more grip. The closeness of the competition was highlighted on the streets of the picturesque coastal town as Metcalfe took his first stage win on the first run. Davies was just 0.9 seconds behind with all five crews again separated by only six seconds. Davies responded, exactly matching Metcalfe on the second run, while Bonniwell extended the overall lead to 6.6 seconds from Woffinden. Tod admitted to being over cautious in the treacherous conditions but the five cars were still only separated by less than twenty seconds. The final and longest stage of the day at 13.83 miles saw the lead change again, Metcalfe setting a stunning time in the dark, foggy conditions. Bonniwell dropped to fourth when he clipped a bank and nearly took the tyre off the rim, finishing the stage with a flat. "I took it fairly easy afterwards," he said, "the last time I went hard in the fog it ended in disaster!" <pre> End of Leg 1 Positions 1 Tom Metcalfe/Kirsty Riddick 29:59.3 2 Shaun Woffinden/Howard Pridmore 30:04.4 3 Chris Davies/Nathan Parry 30:07.2 4 Willie Bonniwell/Ian Fraser 30:08.9 5 Paul Tod/Iestyn ap Dafydd 30:30.0

In typical Manx style, day two dawned bright and sunny, but the first run of the day was cancelled, the crews being allocated a notional time when an accident stopped the stage. After the next stage the overnight positions remained unchanged, although Bonniwell was struggling with a broken gear linkage support and Tod had a coming together with one of the Island's infamous high banks. "I couldn't slow down enough for a 2 right and hit the bank." he rued, "The car went up the bank and landed on two wheels. I just managed to put some lock on or it would have gone over, but the track control arm is bent and we've dropped about five minutes."

A loop of three stages followed, with the lead changing twice, so close were the times. Although Bonniwell took victory on each stage, Davies snatched the advantage from Metcalfe after stage eight. Bonniwell's rise through the order was unrelenting, moving from fourth to first in just two stages. Metcalfe's fall through the order was equally spectacular, as the misfire returned, dropping him from first to fourth in the same two stages. Back at service the battle between Woffinden and Davies was exhilarating, Woffinden's experience of the Island leaving him 0.4 seconds clear of the Welshman while Tod had clipped a rock on the other front corner but sustained little damage.

The morning's five stages were repeated in the afternoon but both stage twelve and fifteen were cancelled after accidents. The order remained unchanged before the final planned loop of three stages, Bonniwell taking another stage win and Metcalfe solving the misfire in service.

Stage thirteen was to prove unlucky for several crews. Metcalfe had a clean run, setting his fourth fastest time to claim third place, but despite Woffinden collecting a rear puncture on rocks dragged out by a previous car, he emerged the surprised leader. Bonniwell hit the same rocks but his front tyre deflated immediately and he stopped to change it, losing three minutes and demoting him back to fourth. Davies inherited a short-lived second, the car refusing to change out of third gear while Tod broke a gearbox mount which he repaired on the road section using a ratchet strap.

The final stage of the day saw Woffinden take his first stage victory and Bonniwell overhaul Davies, the youngster unable to resolve the problem on the road section. At the day's final service all the crews had work to do with the five Stilos pronounced healthy as they arrived at Parc Ferme for the night. <pre> End of Leg 2 Positions 1 Shaun Woffinden/Howard Pridmore 1:51:34.1 2 Tom Metcalfe/Kirsty Riddick 1:52:34.9 3 Willie Bonniwell/Ian Fraser 1:53:54.3 4 Chris Davies/Nathan Parry 1:54:44.3 5 Paul Tod/Iestyn ap Dafydd 1:57:32.9

The weather on day three looked unsettled with a couple of spots of light rain early on. Over seventy miles of competition remained and after stage one was cancelled, tyre choice became easy as the skies brightened for the rally's final seven stages.

Stage seventeen, the 5.42 miles of Ravensdale passes the famous Brandywell Cottage but the hairpin bends proved the undoing of Paul Tod. "I got round the hairpin OK," he said, "but the driveshaft joint broke as I accelerated away and the car wouldn't drive on one 'shaft so we parked up." Tod's demise did not change the order and while Davies took victory on the stage, the battle for the lead continued. Metcalfe was on a charge and Woffinden's one minute advantage was slashed to just 38 seconds by the first service halt. "I may have backed off a bit too much," commented Woffinden, "but there are still five stages to go and I can up the pace if necessary."

The rally's final five stages time run out for young Metcalfe, as his valiant attempt to catch Woffinden was hampered by the cancellation of stage 22, reducing the mileage on which he could attack. Bonniwell had a scare when the early support bracket problem recurred and he lost two sump guard bolts when the car bottomed out heavily. Davies had his driveshaft flange bolts shear just ¼ mile from the penultimate service halt, dropping three minutes and incurring 30 seconds penalty.

The final stage of the rally finished immediately adjacent to the famous TT grandstand, the centre for rally HQ and service and it was Shaun Woffinden/Howard Pridmore who took their first win of the season, pulling out all the stops with a final stage time 25 seconds ahead of the chasing Tom Metcalfe/Kirsty Riddick. "I knew I could go fast in the last stage if Tom got close," smiled Woffinden, "but he decided to back off as well, so the gap was comfortable at the end. It's great to win here since it's such an endurance event on unforgiving roads."

Willie Bonniwell/Ian Fraser maintained their position in front of championship rivals Chris Davies/Nathan Parry, to move the Scots two points clear in the Fiat Stilo Rally Cup with two rounds remaining.

There is a two month gap before the crews journey to Trackrod Rally Yorkshire based around Malton and Pickering on 2/3 October, but four Stilos will contest Wales Rally GB before then on 17-19 September. The official Fiat Auto (UK) Junior team consists of Leon Pesticcio, Andrea Perego and Chris Davies while Willie Bonniwell will compete as a private entrant <pre> Manx International Rally Final Results 1 Shaun Woffinden/Howard Pridmore 3:08:42.9 2 Tom Metcalfe/Kirsty Riddick 3:09:31.7 3 Willie Bonniwell/Ian Fraser 3:10:38.5 4 Chris Davies/Nathan Parry 3:13:13.4

Provisional Drivers Championship Tot 1 William Bonniwell Oban 92 2 Christopher Davies Abergavenny 90 3 Tom Metcalfe Dumfries 80 4 Shaun Woffinden Gainsborough 67 5 Paul Tod Abergavenny 58 6 Joan Vila Roca Girona 38

Provisional Co-drivers Championship Tot 1 Ian Fraser Isle of Mull 92 2 Nathan Parry Abergavenny 90 3 Howard Pridmore Risley 67 4 Kirsty Riddick Castle Douglas 62 5 Iestyn ap Dafydd Bargoed 58 6 Jordi Barrabes Barcelona 38 7 Roger Herron Kilwinning 18

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