British drivers and co-drivers who will soon be heading to the Caribbean for Sol Rally Barbados 2015 enjoyed mixed fortunes in the IMGold Manx National Rally over the weekend, with the biggest disappointment suffered by double Sol Rally Barbados winner Paul Bird. He retired, while leading, for the second year in a row.
With co driver Aled Davies in his Ford Focus WRC08, Bird looked set to add to his wins of 2009, 2010 and 2013 after he followed five out of six stage wins in dreadful conditions on Friday night with three more on Saturday’s opening four stages.
Holding a lead of over 90 seconds, he had a puncture at the start of the 16.21-mile Cringle stage. By the time he could stop safely and assess the situation, the time lost meant his hopes of victory were dashed, so he retired on the spot.
“It’s a bitter pill to have to swallow here again but, as they say, that’s rallying. There was no point in risking the car further, I wanted to save the mileage as it’s going to Barbados this week,” he said.
On the bright side, there was a class win for Aled Edwards, who will co-drive for Sol Rally Barbados 2014 runner-up Rob Swann this year in the absence of regular partner, Darren Garrod. In the Manx, Edwards finished 13th overall and won class B12 in a Citroen DS3 with Andrew Hockridge. Simon Mauger, whose Ford Escort MkII is already in Barbados, finished seventh on the Isle of Man in his Metro 6R4/4M4, retaining his lead in the REIS National Asphalt Rally Championship.
Less fortunate was Steve McNulty, who will co-drive for Mauger’s father, Dick – the Proton Satria he was co-driving for Alan Oldfield ended up stuck on a bank, while other casualties included Nigel Worswick, whose Ford Escort WRC retired mid-way through Saturday, and Ashley Trimble (he will co-drive in Sol Rally Barbados 2015 for Oliver Hopkins), who sat with Bob Fowden until his B13 Subaru Impreza’s gearbox gave up on Friday evening.