Kumho Tyres Mann finally gets to grips with troubles in South Wales Still frustrating but showing signs of improvement was the verdict after reigning Kumho Tyres National Champion David Mann forced his way into the top ten for the first time...
Kumho Tyres Mann finally gets to grips with troubles in South Wales
Still frustrating but showing signs of improvement was the verdict after reigning Kumho Tyres National Champion David Mann forced his way into the top ten for the first time this season at the Swansea Bay Rally on Saturday (July 17).
The hitherto luckless East Anglian's challenge was again plagued by problems with the Subaru Impreza WRC he acquired especially for the defence of the crown. But the Flixton mushroom farmer and his Welsh co-driver Alun Cook weathered the storms (both atmospheric and mechanical) to emerge only two minutes and 48 seconds behind the eventual winner - 2002 National Champion Mark Perrott in a Ford Escort WRC.
Mann, at last getting useful miles under his belt in the relatively new car following three non-finishes, again had to cope with both poor conditions and a succession of mishaps - from a cracked windscreen impairing visibility to a damaged propshaft and clutch - before finally beginning to show some of the pace that brought him the national title for the first time last year.
Top ten stage times on both of the final two tests, around Walters Arena and the second run of the day through Resolven Forest in the Vale of Neath, saw their mud-splattered Impreza climb from 14th to finish 10th overall and fourth in its class.
"It rained very hard on Friday night and we were expecting low cloud and fog," recalled Mann, who finished runner-up on the event in 2003.
"It was very, very slippery to start with and we struggled a bit in the conditions. .
"There was a delay of maybe half an hour at the start of Stage 3 in Rhonda and once we did get going we must have hit an overhanging branch because it broke the windscreen on my side. Not having a replacement handy we had to cope with that for the rest of the rally."
Near the end of Stage 4 - Tyle - a propshaft bearing broke but fortunately there was a service immediately afterwards and Andy Card and his Ace Motorsport crew who tend the car managed to repair it.
Throughout Mann also had to put up with the car's power steering not working fully, which made rapid turning difficult and caused the occasional heart-stopping moment and a few half spins that the reigning national champion would normally have had under control much quicker.
Stage 5 - Rheola - saw Mann and Cook lose over a minute and 20 seconds to the leaders with clutch failure adding to the trouble being experienced with the power steering.
Again the Ace Motorsport mechanics were tested to the limit during the final service at Felindre, just outside Swansea.
"They did a magnificent job," enthused Mann. "If you went to your local garage to have a new clutch fitted it would take most of the day but they managed to change one in about 20 minutes."
The last two of the seven stages came as an encouraging respite with a mere eight seconds separating Mann and Cook's Kumho-sponsored Subaru and the fastest stage time set by the Hyundai WRC driven by another former National Champion Marcus Dodd around Walters Arena.
That was followed by a similarly promising performance through Resolven to take them gratefully over the Swansea Finish Ramp - and bring to an end a run of three consecutive non-finishes.
Any chance of defending the title has long gone so Mann admits they will have to take stock of finances before deciding whether to make the long trip to South West Scotland for round six of the series - the Park Systems Furniture Stages Rally on September 11th.
"We have to sit down and look at our options because, with travel and accommodation, it's quite expensive to do and we have nothing much to gain now," he concludes.