This week Isle of Man rally co-driver Rob Fagg competes on home soil as he contests the 138.com Rally Isle of Man, the island’s longest and toughest event of the rally calendar, when he sits alongside Welshman Hugh Hunter.
Hunter and JR Hinchliffe Plumbing and Heating backed Fagg return to the islands roads in the same Dom Buckley RSC prepared R.S. Hunter Tarmac Ford Fiesta R5 which carried them to victory back in May on the Manx National Rally, a result they will hope to use as platform to build from as they contest the International category of the event.
If they should manage to do the Manx National/Rally Isle of Man double in the same year it would put the pair in illustrious company. Rob would join co-driver Fred Gallagher, who completed the feat alongside the legendary Tony Pond in 1980, whilst local hero Mark Higgins also doubled up in 2005.
As the final round of the Prestone British Rally Championship, the entry lists is headed by the title contenders in this series, and although not registered for that series no doubt Hugh and MC Locksmiths / Burger Man Catering supported Rob will be looking to compare themselves against these crews as they evaluate plans for 2018.
“We’re both really looking forward to the event, after the performance in May Hugh was keen to come back and compete on the islands roads and against the BRC crews” explained Fagg, “We’re under no illusion that the leading crews, Sweden’s Fredrick Ahlin and Irishman Keith Cronin, a two time winner of the event, will be the pace setters. For us it will be great to see where we compare to them, BRC is an option for next year”.
The event is also rounds four and five of the Motor Mall Manx Rally Championship which Organic Construction Solutions sponsored Fagg leads the overall co-driver section of and something he hopes to continue to do so come Saturday night.
The organisers of Rally Isle of Man have listened to feedback from the top crews in 2016, most notably works Citroen driver Craig Breen, and in doing so put together a route containing many of the classic Manx stages.
Making a return is the full Kella stage starting in Sulby and working its way to Kirk Michael, add that to the tests around Rhenab (Maughold) and Baldhoon (Glen Roy) they present some very tricky narrow testing roads for the crews. Alongside Druidale, Little London, St Marks, Tholt-y-Will and Castletown the event really does bring back some of the flavour of yester year.
“Personally I like the route this year, yes some of the roads are a little rougher than previous years but they are the same for everyone” explained Rob, “Its great the organisers have listened and there are less loop stages some classics back in”.
Hunter and Fagg have also been lucky enough to secure support from local business Ocean Motor Village and their 4HIRE brand. Ocean Motor Village are the islands main Ford dealer along with Citroen/Kia and under the 4HIRE banner offer an extensive hire business to the local community.
“We are very grateful to Ed (Bentley) and Donny (Gill) for the support they have given us, every bit helps and they certainly have for this event” commented Rob, “Both Ed and Donny understand the costs involved with Ed still active and Donny a former competitor in the Manx rally scene and it’s great to carry the Ocean Motor Village and 4HIRE logo on the car for the event”.
The event gets under way from Douglas Promenade as the first crew leaves the Ceremonial Start at 15:00 before heading to the opening stage of five across Marine Drive which make up the opening leg. Also in there is the Super Special on Douglas Promenade which sees two cars compete at the same time against each other, giving a really spectacular for the spectators, at approx 18:30.
Friday is the longest day of the British rallying year, 11 stages to be tackled over 14 hours, headlined by the traditional double run through the streets of Castletown in the evening. The Friday night leg includes five stages without service, so any issue will be magnified.
Saturday has a further five tests in store, completed by the Classic dash across the island from Druidale to the TT course run from Cronk-ny-Mona to the finish, the ultimate reward stage at the end of three days of testing driving. First cars due at the Grandstand at 2.10pm.
Hugh and Rob’s progress can be followed at http://results.djames.org.uk/results/
Rob is supported in 2017 by Robert Graham & Co Chartered Quantity Surveyors, JR Hinchliffe Plumbing and Heating, Burger Man Catering, MC Locksmiths and Organic Construction Solutions.
Hugh and Rob heading toward victory on May’s Manx National Rally. Photo courtesy of Mark Corlett (Markspics)