Barrable's Manx hat-trick Robbie Barrable and Damien Connolly took twelve fastest stage times on their way to victory on the Isle of Man International Rally this weekend, round four of the Citroen Racing Trophy UK. Also the second of three ...
Barrable's Manx hat-trick
Robbie Barrable and Damien Connolly took twelve fastest stage times on their way to victory on the Isle of Man International Rally this weekend, round four of the Citroen Racing Trophy UK.
Also the second of three asphalt events in the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship, the notoriously tricky island roads were made considerably more challenging by a mix of fog and rain over the two day event.
Championship rival Mark Donnelly set the initial pace as the six Citroens blasted off from the famous Douglas TT grandstand pit lane for a short run the wrong way up the bike racing course.
He and new co-driver Aidan Friel were the class of the field on stage three too, the second test cancelled following an accident at the front of the rally. But at the event's first service halt the gap to Barrable was just less than five seconds, insignificant in the changeable weather conditions.
The next loop of stages took the crews to a well deserved overnight halt, but since the final test of the day was again cancelled due to a crash further up the field, the epic battle that was building at the head of the Citroens was curtailed. Donnelly went to bed second by the narrowest of margins after Barrable's excellent times eased him a tenth of a second ahead.
Meanwhile the rest of the Citroen field had their own battles to contend with, Richard Sykes and Simon Taylor the best of the rest, thirty seconds back. They had set a target of getting to the finish after a hat-trick of retirements, but it was going to be another testing event after a freak electrical short caused a wiring loom fire. The crew managed to smother the flames with a jacket, but it left them with no dash display and nervous about using any peripheral electrics. Not good as the rain came down towards the end of the day.
Mark Gamble's return to the championship was a muted affair, suffering a puncture and misfire on the first day. With these problems and cancelled stages, the new partnership with experienced co-driver Paula Swinscoe suffered, the crew unable to settle properly together with continual distractions.
Molly Taylor also had a new co-driver for the event, triple Australian champion co-driver Coral Taylor, or mum, as Molly calls her. Having eventually persuaded mum to join her in the UK, the new pairing made a solid start, Molly managing to put her spectacular exit from last year's event out of her mind completely.
Bringing up the rear were Joe McGonigle and Niall Burns, lucky to be in the event at all after the clutch let go on Thursday's shakedown stage. The team did a great job of changing it, but coupled with overshoots, it was taking time for the Irishman to get comfortable.
Rain had been forecast for day two and tyre choice was almost impossible for the six crews, but making the most of it in the morning were Barrable and Connolly. They pushed hard and also found the set-up changes worked well, four fastest stage times in a row their reward.
The first loop of stages didn't go so well for Donnelly and Friel, intercom problems on three stages forcing them to revert to hand signals. The resultant time loss, coupled with a clean run from Barrable, left the young Northern Irish driver twenty four seconds adrift, intermittent rain not helping.
Both Taylor and McGonigle found their feet on the second day, family harmony in the Taylor car putting them third quickest on a handful of stages, while the Irishman was the only driver outside the top two to post a fastest stage time on the first run through Castletown.
The dubious honour of the event's first Citroen retirement went to Gamble and Swinscoe. They had suffered a gearbox mount failure earlier on, collecting time penalties that eventually caused their exit from the rally after the Glascoe stage.
Gamble's problems had promoted Sykes to third in spite of aquaplaning and hitting a wall backwards, but an improving McGonigle had him in his sights. Top spot through Castletown and another handful of second fastest times from the amiable Irishman helped him overhaul TaylorWest Midlands' veteran, closing to within two seconds by stage fifteen.
The atrocious weather on Saturday afternoon left roads flooded and visibility poor and McGonigle became a victim of the challenging conditions, hitting a wall on stage sixteen at high speed. Both driver and co-driver were unhurt, but the damage was too great, leaving them unwilling spectators.
As the rally drew to a close Barrable eased away at the front, Donnelly managing to claw back less than a second with a fastest time on the penultimate stage. Sykes looked comfortable in third, but a cruel twist dropped him to within seven seconds of Taylor when they stopped at the scene of an accident, only to have the car regain the road.
With more than 45 seconds lost, they had to push hard to fend off Taylor, but an uncharacteristic late call by Sykes' co-driver Simon Taylor caused them to leap a bank at speed, landing in a field. Although they eventually found spectators to help them regain the road, they arrived at the next control out of time. Sykes was philosophical about the incident, admitting it was a rare mistake and that they were still speaking.
The late retirement left mother and daughter crew Molly and Coral Taylor to cruise to third with Donnelly/Friel maintaining second, but taking their third straight win in the Citroen racing Trophy UK were Irish pair Robbie Barrable and Damien Connolly.
The victory extends their lead in the championship to seven points over Donnelly ahead of the next round, International Rally NI, part of the famous Ulster Rally which takes place on Friday and Saturday 20/21st August.