BRC

Manx Int'l Rally Ford Review

Ford drivers Stephanie Simmonite and Liam O'Callaghan brought their Ford Escort Super Rally Cars home in the top ten of the Sony Manx International Rally, the final round of the Mobil 1 RAC British Rally Championship, which finished in...

Ford drivers Stephanie Simmonite and Liam O'Callaghan brought their Ford Escort Super Rally Cars home in the top ten of the Sony Manx International Rally, the final round of the Mobil 1 RAC British Rally Championship, which finished in Douglas this afternoon. O'Callaghan finished a superb fifth overall on his first attempt at the asphalt rally, regarded as the most specialised in the championship while Stephanie and Rachael Simmonite finished ninth overall, but sadly missed out on their fourth consecutive British ladies title. The weather played a huge role in today's final leg, with sudden heavy downpours meaning tyre choice was vital for crews, who were often caught out on unsuitable rubber. The Simmonites, needing to take maximum points to clinch the ladies title, saw their hopes ended on the 7.92 mile Cornaa stage this morning. With the rain beating down, their Auto Windscreens-backed Ford Escort clipped a tree on a sharp bend and became wedged on a bank for two minutes. Spectators were on hand to help the pair back on the road and they continued with a bent steering arm on the car. The Chris Birkbeck Rallysport team, which prepares Simmonite's Ford Escort Super Rally Car, replaced the arm allowing Stephanie to finish the rally ninth overall and second in the ladies' category. "Obviously I'm disappointed because we've won the title for the past three years and would have liked to have done so for a fourth time, especially as it's the 30th anniversary of the Ford Escort," said 28-year-old Stephanie. "But Barbara Armstrong drove very well to take the title and we've had a fantastic battle throughout the year. I'm really happy with a top 10 finish, the Ford Escort has run like clockwork and it's just a shame there has to be a loser in such a close battle." Irishman O'Callaghan and co-driver Steve Harris had a trouble free run in their Dunlop-backed canary yellow car during today's twisty and narrow seven special stages which covered 70 miles. It was a remarkable performance on Liam's debut drive on the Manx roads and one which also left O'Callaghan on the verge of clinching the Formula 2 category in the Irish Tarmac Championship. "I'm delighted with this result. I've had a great time and to score manufacturer points for Ford here was an added bonus," said the Kanturk driver. "It's an exhilarating event and we had excitement right to the very end because the Escort's jack came loose under my feet during one of the final stages. Trying to control the car at over 100mph on these narrow lanes is hard enough without having a jack rolling around! "The Boland Motorsport team, which prepares the car has done a great job and I'd like to thank Ford for having the confidence to select me as their driver for the last two rallies. "We've had a great time through the stages today, and apart from a big moment in the Cornaa test when in sixth gear at 100mph we hit some shiny tar and the car slid dramatically, we've had a very good run," added O'Callaghan. Julian Porter from County Durham finished 16th on his debut outing in another Boland Motorsport-prepared Ford Escort. "There's nothing like learning how to drive a new car in competition. I did what I was asked to do - finish. The Ford Escort has been brilliant to drive - it's absolutely amazing and having tasted this specification of car for the first time, I just want more," said the 27-year-old.

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