UK: David Mann Isle of Man summary

Mann's title hopes disappear in the fog Reigning Kumho Tyres National Rally Champion David Mann is considering his options after his season of ill-luck continued on the Isle of Man on Saturday (May7/8). The Flixton mushroom farmer's defence...

Mann's title hopes disappear in the fog

Reigning Kumho Tyres National Rally Champion David Mann is considering his options after his season of ill-luck continued on the Isle of Man on Saturday (May7/8).

The Flixton mushroom farmer's defence of the crown has been ravaged by a catalogue of mechanical misfortune leading up to the Roush Manx National Rally - an event he won 12 months ago en-route to taking the national title for the first time.

But after being restricted to just three points in the opening two rounds this season, it wasn't to be third time lucky as Mann and long-standing Welsh co-driver Alun Cook (Caerphilly) crashed out in the mist on stage 11 - Slieauwhelian - known to many competitors as 'Roundtable'.

"It was driver error this time," admitted a disconsolate Mann after returning his battered Kumho sponsored Subaru Impreza WRC to the main service area in Douglas.

"It was wet and foggy and we were near the end of the stage when I carried a bit too much speed into a square left and hit a bank.

"We rode up on top of it and the car then just fell over onto its roof."

Despite panel damage to the roof and wing, the car was not totally disabled but, unfortunately for the beleaguered defending champions, there weren't enough spectators around the muscle the vehicle back onto its axles so they were forced to retire.

"There's not too much damage," continued the East Anglian, "When we did get it back on its wheels we drove it back to Douglas to put it on the trailer."

Mann admits that lack of miles in the new WRC is the key to many of his difficulties in 2004, pointing out that he has still only limited experience in the car since switching from his older, championship-winning Subaru last winter.

"The problem is still lack of practice - the championship is so competitive that it's difficult to go straight into it in an unfamiliar car," he explains.

"Three rounds down and we have still really only done one and a half rallies since last October and that was my first experience of the car on tarmac.

"With a bit more time I think we could have made quite a few small improvements to the set-up of the car on tarmac, especially the suspension.

"We have already put an entry in for the Mutiny Rally in Llandrindod Wells in four weeks so the plan at the moment is to do that but I must get some more practice beforehand."

Mann and Cook, who describe the high speed, 120-mile plus Manx spectacle as among their favourite events, began steadily but climbed to eighth place by the overnight halt.

But the clear weather which accompanied the opening leg on Friday night degenerated into rain and mist by the time the crews re-engaged in battle on Saturday morning.

Despite limited visibility and the unfamiliarity of the Ace Motorsport- prepared Impreza, Mann continued his charge up the leaderboard and was holding sixth place when the accident happened.

"The new engine (fitted after a breakdown on the previous round in Wales) was very strong and felt really good," he added.

The 16-stage rally was eventually won by Ulster-based former National Champion Kenny McKinstry, who drove his Subaru Impreza to a 25-second victory over the Ford Escort WRC of 2002 Champion Mark Perrott.

-dmr-

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