Rally Isle of Man is almost here

Thu, 08 Sep 2016

As we write this, we are literally counting down the days to the start of the 2016 Rally Isle of Man, one of the most prestigious events in the rallying calendar.

Being based on the Island, it’s a privilege for us to host so many world famous and world class motor racing events. Whilst the Isle of Man is synonymous with the TT, with every passing year, Rally Isle of Man puffs out its chest, reinforcing its status as one of the finest events of its kind anywhere in the world.

Certainly the drivers love it here – which is why so many world class competitors are lured to the Island year after year. It’s a must for spectators too, many of whom make the annual pilgrimage from distant outposts to savour the special atmosphere that Rally Isle of Man creates.

Come rain or shine – and it’s a mixed weather bag at present - 2016 promises to be an absolutely cracker.

For three days (Sept 15-17) we’ll be witness to high speed, spectacular action - a combination of pure grunt and outrageous skill.  

In fact, this year’s entry list, just released, looks like being the strongest the event has seen for many years, setting up a thrilling finale to the FIA Celtic Trophy and MSA British Rally Championship.

One of world rallying’s hottest stars, Irishman Craig Breen, will be at the start line in an R5 version of the Citroen DS3, the car he drove to a maiden world championship podium in August at Rally Finland. He’ll be alongside his regular co-driver Scott Martin.

Another surprise and very welcome entry is local favourite Mark Higgins, the winning-most driver in the event’s history, with five victories between 2000 and 2009.

Mark joins the DMack Tyres team to drive a Ford Fiesta R5. It will be the first time the Manxman has competed in this class of car since a one-off outing in the 2013 RallyGB.  In demand as a leading stunt driver in movies, including James Bond, Mark’s also been driving in the Chinese Rally Championship in recent seasons.

The three time former British champion has already tasted big success on the Island this year, obliterating his own car TT lap record in June – when he went round the iconic 37.75 mile road circuit at an average speed of over 128 miles an hour. That’s only a tad slower than the outright lap record on a Superbike! 

Higgins will be team-mate to Elfyn Evans, who secured the MSA British Rally title for DMack in the Ulster Rally ten days ago after a dominant season, underlining his world-class credentials. The Welshman has won four of the six rounds held so far, but will face a stiff challenge in an event he last contested in 2010.

This illustrious trio will bring even greater allure to this year’s Rally, of that there is no doubt.

And talking of the TT, 13 times TT winner and outright lap record holder, Michael Dunlop, is returning to Rally Isle of Man to compete in a Ford Escort MKII, to see if he can build on his success at last year’s event. The Ulsterman had an absolute ball in 2015, finishing a stunning fourth overall on the National section. More recently, between his bike commitments, he achieved a podium finish in the national category at the Ulster Rally. It’ll be fascinating to see how he goes this year, given that the class he’s entered looks even stronger this time around.

One thing’s for sure – the racing will be ultra competitive, with the outcome of so many of the Rally Championships being contested resting on next week’s action. All mouth watering stuff!

So where’s the best place to watch from?

The Chairman of Rally Isle of Man, John Gill, has offered us three top suggestions for    spectator viewing points.

On the Thursday opening night (Sept 15), up on the Villa Marina Colonnade. The action takes place between Broadway and Quid’s Inn. Roads close at 6pm and the cars should be away around 6.45pm.

On Friday, there are numerous stages around the Island throughout the day, but head to Castletown Harbour or the Square for some close quarter action. First cars are off at 6.30pm – but allow plenty of time for parking.

And on Saturday, anywhere between Cronk ny Mona and the Grandstand – in effect the finishing stages of the TT circuit. The stage starts at 1.30pm. And unlike the TT, Grandstand entry is free!  

Wherever you choose to watch - we hope you enjoy the action and be safe at all times. Motorsport is thrilling to see at close quarter, but it’s always best to be vigilant.

Roll on the start!


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