UK: David Mann Astra Stages preview

Mann hopes to make new car sing in Llangollen Title holder David Mann will be looking for a clear run when the Kumho Tyres National Rally Championship travels to North Wales next Saturday (April 3rd). The Flixton mushroom farmer needs to ...

Mann hopes to make new car sing in Llangollen

Title holder David Mann will be looking for a clear run when the Kumho Tyres National Rally Championship travels to North Wales next Saturday (April 3rd).

The Flixton mushroom farmer needs to kick-start his defence with a good result after a troubled opening round in February but faces an extremely strong, capacity entry in the Llangollen-based Astra Stages National Rally.

Mann and co-driver Alun Cook (Caerphilly) drive a recently acquired Subaru Impreza WRC but could only manage an uncharacteristic 20th place on the Sunseeker Rally in Bournemouth. Mann admits he is still learning the car but, with six scores from the seven round series to count, he knows they cannot afford another slip-up.

Their blue Kumho Tyres-backed Impreza will start at number four when the cars embark on nine gravel-surfaced stages in the forests of Clocaenog, Penmachno and Aberhirnant. Ahead are last year's Astra Stages winner Andrew Burton, current championship leader Roger Duckworth, who Mann pipped to the title last season, and three times former champion Marcus Dodd. Also, breathing down his neck in the starting order, are the likes of ex-Scottish Champion Barry Johnson, the 2002 Kumho National Champion Mark Perrott, who always excels in the Welsh forests and Bob Ceen, who finished behind Burton on the event 12 months ago. Mann recalls:

"Last year's Astra Stages was unbelievably dusty for so early in the year but, from what we saw in Wales last week, I don't think that will be a problem this time round, although you can never tell because the ground there does tend to dry out very fast.

"We got stuck behind two people with problems last year and couldn't see where we were going so had to slow because of the dust they were creating.

"After Bournemouth, we've got to try and get a good score on every round now but there is still a long way to go. Looking back, we were the only people in contention last year who managed six scores so it is possible that five good results would still do.

"However that's the furthest thing from our minds and the job ahead is to do well on Saturday."

Mann acknowledges he is still "learning" the new Subaru and is disappointed that a planned two-day test session at Sweet Lamb in Mid- Wales last week had to be severely curtailed. He explains:

"From the start we had problems with the "active diff" - the transmission - we had a run in the car but couldn't get it to work so there wasn't much point in continuing.

"I took the gearbox straight to Prodrive (acknowledged Suburu rallying specialists) and they located the trouble to the ECU (electronic control unit) so at least have got it fixed before the rally.

"But we still need more time in the car and hope to take it for a spin on the Friday before the Astra stages.

"Physically it's much the same as the older Impreza that we won the championship in last year but the engine characteristics, the transmission and the suspension are notably different.

"We still haven't found out everything about the new car but many other drivers are in new equipment too this year so that's not an excuse."

The car, like vastly experienced international navigator Cook, will come up from South Wales, where it is currently having a final check- over from Ace Motorsport proprietor Andy Card in Newbridge.

Card and his crew will also tend Mann's Subaru on the Astra Stages which is due to start in Llangollen around 8am and finish back in the home of the famous Eisteddfod around 5.30 in the afternoon.

-dm-

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About this article
Series Other rally
Drivers Marcus Dodd , Andrew Burton