Stilos Accept Manx Challenge Five Fiat Stilo Rally Cup contenders will cross the Irish Sea for round five of the Fiat Stilo Rally Cup, the Gibbs Aquada Manx International Rally. The classic asphalt test of competitors' nerve welcomes the one...
Stilos Accept Manx Challenge
Five Fiat Stilo Rally Cup contenders will cross the Irish Sea for round five of the Fiat Stilo Rally Cup, the Gibbs Aquada Manx International Rally. The classic asphalt test of competitors' nerve welcomes the one make series for the first time. With the cars proving their sealed surface mettle earlier in July, it should be an interesting fight.
The Hi-Tec and Fiat Auto (UK) backed Fiat Stilo Rally Cup one-make championship is based around the 3 door 1747cc Stilo and is the only manufacturer backed one-make series supporting this year's Kwik Fit Pirelli British Rally Championship.
The 187bhp Group A cars will contest the fifth round of Britain's premiere rally championship, vying for the lucrative prize drive in a Fiat Punto Super 1600 car in 2005. Until the first round in Gateshead, only two Stilos had competed in the UK, but the 2004 Fiat Stilo Rally Cup has attracted high quality entries and is based on the successful Italian Stilo Trofeo which has been running since 2002.
Scots Willie Bonniwell and co-driver Ian Fraser took the first win of the championship and repeated the feat on the Jim Clark Rally, after a last minute results error was spotted elevating them from second. Their pace on asphalt was not in question taking most stage wins but dropping time with a puncture, eventually taking their second victory by 5 seconds.
The victory was not, however, over nearest championship rival Chris Davies, who was caught out by gravel early in the rally, retiring with suspension damage. Partnered by fellow Welshman Nathan Parry, Davies shares top points with Bonniwell but would take second in a tie-break situation. The pair is at a disadvantage and will have to push hard since all four other crews boast more competitive tarmac mileage.
Also flying the flag for Scotland will be Dumfries mechanic Tom Metcalfe. He is partnered again by degree student Kirsty Riddick, who at 18 years old is the youngest co-driver in the British Rally Championship. The pair set some astonishingly quick stage times on their first outing on tarmac, but had bad luck with the weather, caught out on the wrong tyres several times.
Paul Tod makes it two Welsh drivers and three juniors in the top four. Continuing with Iestyn ap Dafydd alongside, he snatched third when Metcalfe was caught out and bent the rear suspension. The Welsh pair had also struggled early on, clipping the same kerb that forced Davies' retirement. The weakened rear beam refused to stay straight but despite this they set some fastest stage times and will be worth watching.
The only English crew in the Stilo Cup is Shaun Woffinden and Howard Pridmore. They were bitterly disappointed when their Jim Clark victory was taken from them after the event's timing error was discovered. Although the difference was only seven seconds, the times were so close at the finish that it dropped them from first to second.
The traditional rally format centres on the famous Douglas TT Grandstand and the 23 stages cover 187 competitive miles, a stern test for the Fiat Stilo Rally Cup crews. The rally starts from Ramsey at 18.00 on Thursday with 25 miles over five stages running into darkness. At 85 miles over a further ten stages, Friday is the longest of the rally, but Saturday's eight stages include two at nearly 14 miles each. The event finishes at around 16.00 at the TT Grandstand in Douglas with awards at the Villa Marina on the promenade at 21.30.