Can Andrew do a Michael? If all goes according to plan this weekend, Andrew Nesbitt will romp home in the Manx International Rally and produce a rallying version of Michael Schumacher's dominant performance in Formula One. The Armagh driver has...
Can Andrew do a Michael?
If all goes according to plan this weekend, Andrew Nesbitt will romp home in the Manx International Rally and produce a rallying version of Michael Schumacher's dominant performance in Formula One. The Armagh driver has enjoyed a clean sweep so far in this years championship with his Cuisine de France Subaru Impreza WRC, and few people would bet against another win on the Isle of Man this weekend despite the presence of most of his regular 'Tarmac' rivals - and the top British Championship runners as well.
Nesbitt will start from the No 16 position, behind the regular 'top ten' Super 1600 entries and the regular British series front-runners, but as he proved on the Jim Clark Rally last month, this is not necessarily a problem. On recent form there's little doubt that he CAN win the Manx and take another step towards the title, but even if he doesn't, there are still three rounds left in which to make sure of the crown. As one of the few drivers who are contesting both British and Toshiba series, Austin McHale tops list of serious contenders in Class A8 with his Toyota Ireland Corolla WRC at No 12, followed by Jonny Milner in a similar car at 14. Milner has already tasted victory in the British series, but most pundits feel that Nesbitt's main opposition this weekend will come from Mark Higgins in yet another Corolla at No 15. One of Britain's top talents at the moment and a local man to boot, Higgins' credentials are impeccable and a 'home' win is just what he wants.
Behind Nesbitt, Eamonn Boland - currently lying second in the Toshiba points listing with his, new shape' Impreza WRC - will be trying for another strong result, and with Derek McGarrity (third) and Daniel Doherty both giving this round a miss, there's a chance that Eamonn can claim the number one slot in the Championship if he takes the Manx. UK series regulars Robert Woodside Jr (Impreza WRC) and Steve Petch (Hyundai Accent WRC) could also have a bearing on the outcome. In the Group N section, points leader Trevor Cathers (Mitsubishi EVO 5 No 21 of the Higgins family, in this case Mark's brother David who starts his Gp N Impreza at No 11. The rest of the Gp N contenders will also be there. Donie O'Sullivan, just two points behind Cathers will have his Impreza at No 26, while Roy White's EVO6 (25), and Seamus Leonard's Impreza (24) will also be putting pressure on the vastly experienced Co Tyrone man.
Based in Douglas, the Manx Rally is, appropriately enough, run over three legs starting at 6.15 on Thursday evening. The first leg involves five stages; two of them run through the streets of Castletown, the ancient Manx capitol. Fridays all-day session takes in 12 stages, including classics such as Brandywell and Round Table, while a further seven stages on Saturday should see the picture complete.
Can Andrew Nesbitt emulate Michael Schumacher and clinch the title early? We'll have to wait and see... For stage by stage results, check in with www.toshibarally.com.