Pirelli British Rally Championship leader and title holder Jonny Milner makes the short journey across the water to the Isle of Man next week, as he bids for yet more series points on the Manx International Rally. Driving his usual Team Dynamics...
Pirelli British Rally Championship leader and title holder Jonny Milner makes the short journey across the water to the Isle of Man next week, as he bids for yet more series points on the Manx International Rally.
Driving his usual Team Dynamics Pro Rally Toyota Corolla WRC, the Huggate driver will be keen to strengthen his 15 point lead in the series after taking maximum points on the recent Jim Clark Memorial Rally. Wrexham born co-driver Nicky Beech will once again be on the pace notes as the British Rally Champions move into a critical stage of the 2003 season.
As Round Four of the PBRC, the Manx International Rally is the longest and arguably one of the toughest events within the British rally calendar. Yorkshireman Milner is no stranger to the all tarmac event, which uses the fantastic closed country roads around the small Island in the Irish Sea.
Upgrading the 1998 specification Pirelli shod Toyota to the newer 'Step 3' suspension for the Jim Clark Memorial Rally worked wonders for Milner, as he was consistently setting the pace on the Edinburgh based event, with no less than 12 fastest stage times. Milner was also debuting the new range of Team Dynamics motorsport wheels, showing the strength of the new "Pro Comp" tarmac wheel after driving for six miles on one without a tyre - and hardly any damage to the wheel.
Now at the halfway point of the season, Milner's consistently quick performances have put him in a strong position at the top of the charts, with championship rivals Tapio Laukkanen and Jari-Matti Latvala suffering from accidents on the last round after some good early stage times.
Looking back, the 2002 Manx saw Milner involved in a close battle with Mark Higgins until a propshaft failure towards the end of the second day, after Milner had closed the gap to the local favourite to just 20 seconds. Unfortunately, the propshaft failure was the least of Jonny's worries as the Corolla suffered a gearbox problem on the final leg, leaving Jonny with just third gear for the whole day. Milner showed his typical dogged determination to bring the Corolla home third. That determination is still very much in evidence as Milner looks forward to one of his favourite rallies:
"Yes, I'm very confident ahead of next week. The car has had an engine rebuild since the last rally, so a fresh engine and good suspension should make life a bit easier for us compared to last year. Although we're in a good position championship wise, we can't afford to rest on our laurels, and if anything, now is the time to push harder as we really have to consolidate the position we are in.
Tyre choice is so critical on the Manx though. Last year was incredible! I've never seen the weather so bad for so long in the years I have been going over to the Island. We're fortunate to have excellent support from Dick Cormack and the team at Pirelli so I'm sure that we'll be in a good position tyre wise for the rally. Hopefully if we have a clean run without any problems we should be in line for a strong finish by the end of the event. The other thing to remember is that when we reach the halfway point of the Manx - we're also reaching the halfway point of the season. There's still a long way to go, and everything is still to play for."
The Manx International Rally gets underway from the Island's ancient capital of Mann, Castletown, on Thursday 31st July at 6:30pm. From there the crews cover four stages to the west of the Island before returning to Castletown itself for the legendary blast around the small town and its harbour. The rally then restarts on Friday morning, and a two full days of hard competition on a further twenty special stages lie in wait for Milner, Beech and Team Dynamics outfit.