Jonny Milner wins Manx Rally. Jonny Milner was on top form this weekend, as he dominated the Manx International Rally from start to finish to record his first ever International rally win on tarmac, and his third maximum points haul in a row for...
Jonny Milner wins Manx Rally.
Jonny Milner was on top form this weekend, as he dominated the Manx International Rally from start to finish to record his first ever International rally win on tarmac, and his third maximum points haul in a row for this year's Pirelli British Rally Championship.
Driving his usual Team Dynamics Pro Rally Toyota Corolla WRC, British Rally Champion Milner was hoping that his Wrexham born co-driver Nicky Beech would be a lucky omen for the team on the event, with Beech winning the event previously in 1997. 26 stages lay in wait for the team around the motorsport mad island, using a majority of fast, bumpy, narrow and flat out tarmac roads that would test both the crew and the Corolla WRC to the limit.
Buoyed by a competitive outing on the Jim Clark Memorial Rally, Huggate based Milner was looking forward to the Manx after a recent engine rebuild. In tricky weather conditions on the Thursday evening, Milner excelled. After six stages on the first leg, Jonny had built an impressive 18 second lead over the very hard challenging Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford Focus WRC). Milner's experience told as he selected the right tyres for the changeable weather conditions.
Friday morning brought sunshine and white clouds, and as Milner opted for slick Pirelli tyres, he began a fascinating battle with the more advanced machinery of Tapio Laukkanen (Subaru Impreza WRC) and Latvala. It was nip and tuck between all three. Kenny McKinstry was also on the pace in his Impreza WRC, as Milner increased his lead to 24 seconds by stage 14. Latvala was unable to maintain the pace however, as he crashed the Focus out in SS15.
As a result, Milner's lead grew to 36 seconds over Laukkanen. The Finn countered with three fastest times in a row, with Milner taking fastest time on the final stage of Friday to lead by 32 seconds. Tapio however, was unable to reach the overnight parc ferme control. An exhaust manifold change couldn't be completed within the allowed time at service, and the Finn was out.
All this was great news for Jonny. In an instant, Milner's lead had grown to a whopping 4 minutes and 35 seconds! McKinstry was recovering from a double puncture earlier in the event so Milner was left with the seemingly easy task of negotiating six more special stages on the Saturday in order to win and grab the maximum points.
Three more fastest times on the final day, despite "taking it easy" meant that Jonny and Nicky crossed the finish line in fine style, winning the event by 4 minutes and 59 seconds. Milner, understandly, was ecstatic:
"The Manx International Rally has always been one of my favourite rallies. I love the roads here - they really suit my driving style as you have to be inch perfect all the time. Of course from the spectators point of view it was sad that Tapio and Jari-Matti retired, but we drove our own rally and we were never headed from the first stage to the last.
That is a tribute to the whole team, especially Nicky for his great work and of course everyone else involved in making sure that we have the best possible chance of winning rallies. Once again we must thank Pirelli for providing us with excellent rubber and Team Dynamics new range of motorsport wheels can celebrate their first ever International Rally win as well. Its been a great rally, well organised, well run, well marshalled, and brilliant for our championship aspirations. We'll expect a hard fight again in Ulster, but our confidence couldn't be higher at the moment."
From the Isle of Man attention now turns to the next round of the series, the Ulster Rally. Based in Armagh, the event is a short and sharp blast around muddy and tricky tarmac country roads in Northern Ireland. Milner finished a fine 2nd on the event in 2002 - can he go one better in 2003 and make it four maximum points in a row?