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Three Legs of Mann


17th-18th March 2023

Three Legs of Mann 2023
Winners: Dan Willan/Mark Appleton (Volvo PV544)
Photograph: HERO/ERA

Organiser: HERO-ERA

Date: 17th-18th March 2023

Clerk of the Course: Guy Woodcock

Deputy Clerk of the Course: Alan Teare & Andy Pullan

Route: 400 Miles, 26 Tests, 16 Regularities & 4 TC Sectiosn

Base: Douglas

Starters: 58

HERO-ERA returned to the Isle of Man to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the first Manx Trophy Rally. The 58 starters faced an intense challenge with 26 tests, 16 regularities and 4 time control sections crammed into 36 hours of competition.

The Start was the TT Grandstand and crews went immediately into two tests in the car park and tracks behind the famous building. In fact, there were seven tests before the first break. After the Grandstand tests, there were two more using the Marine Drive, on the coast, just below Douglas.

The first regularity started at Newtown and ran via Braaid to finish at Union Mills. The tests at the Grandstand were repeated, before crews returned to the Marine Drive for a further test and a regularity, which then continued into the lanes around Santon. This hectic schedule continued through the finish of the event, 36 hours after the start.

At the Crosby halt, Paul Crosby/Ali Procter had established a healthy lead; they were 11 seconds ahead of Thomas Koerner/Rolf Pellini, to make it a Porsche 911 1-2. Dan Willan/Mark Appleton were in third having picked up a 10 second grass penalty on the second test.

Two crews were already in mechanical difficulties. Bill Cleyndert/Emily Anderson had a clutch bearing fail and, although they tried to re-join later in the day, they decided that it would be more prudent to withdraw rather than risk being stranded on the Night Leg.

Also in trouble were Summer Trial winners, Constant Busch/Najib Nakad, their Volvo Amazon lost its brakes. They were able to get the car fixed and were back in the competition at the lunch halt.

A regularity through Druidale took crews north and the first visit to Jurby Airfield for three tests. It was here that the Escort of Nick Bloxham/Niall Frost, which had been fastest on four of the opening five tests, came to a halt. Initially a blown head gasket was suspected, but when the engine was opened it was found that a piston had melted.

This section did little to change the battle between the two Porsches at the head of the field; Koerner/Pellini took a second back over Druidale, then both crews too fastest time in their respective classes on all of the three Jurby tests.

The fourth regularity was in the lanes north of Peel and saw Koerner/Pellini fall back as they added 22 seconds to their total and were passed for second place by Willan/Appleton. This meant that at the lunch halt, which was taken at the Abby in Ballasalla, that Crosby/Procter led the Volvo crew by 13 seconds. Koerner/Pellini were 14 seconds further back, but only five seconds ahead of Paul Dyas/Martyn Taylor (Volvo Amazon).

Three Legs of Mann 2023
Second Placed: Paul Dyas/Martyn Taylor (Volvo Amazon)
Photograph: HERO/ERA

After the break the route moved to Port Erin and two tests below Nigel Mansell's former home. Steve Head/Graham Raeburn (Ford Escort), who were making their debut on a HERO-ERA event, were fastest on the first of these tests.

The rally moved back to the north of the island via a regularity that started near Ballasalla and finished at St John's. Angus McQueen/Mike Cochrane put in the best performance over this section, as they gave their highly successful BMW 323i its penultimate outing.

Koerner/Pellini took fastest time on two of the next series of three tests at Jurby. Crosby/Procter secured their lead by being fastest on the third.

It was on the first of these Jurby tests that the VW Golf of Nigel Woof/Sally Woof broke a gear linkage. The sweeps fixed the faulty part and the crew were able to re-join at the start of Leg Two.

The final regularity of Leg One started at the end of the last Jurby test and finished on the outskirts of Ramsey. Le Jog Gold Medalists Eric Michiels/Aswin Pyck (Porsche 924S) were making their first visit to the Isle of Man and put in the best performance on this regularity.

There was an 85 minute break at the Victory Cafe at the top of the Mountain TT Course, before competitors embarked on the second Leg, all of which was run in the dark.

At the break Crosby/Procter still led, but now had Willan/Appleton only four seconds behind. Koerner/Pellini were in third, having pulled away from Dyas/Taylor, who were still in fourth.

Leg Two opened with four regularities, which had a total of 22 timing points. There were then four TC sections, split by two tests, which were run over a closed Druidale road. The going was made even more difficult by fog, rain and, at times, sleet, which shrouded the upper reaches of the island.

Willan/Appleton took the lead on the opening regularity, which ran through the Conrhenny Plantation; they dropped just nine seconds as Crosby/Procter were on 31 seconds. Meanwhile Dyas/Taylor, who were second fastest on the section, took more than a minute out of Koerner/Pellini and moved into third place.

Things got worse for Crosby/Procter as they picked up the maximum one minute penalty at the first timing point on the third regularity; this was a tricky map section that used the tracks and lane either side of the main road at Dhoon.

By the time that crews arrived at a coffee break at Andreas, Willan/Appleton had established a lead of 35 seconds over Dyas/Taylor. Andy Lane/Iain Tullie (BMW 2002tii) were now in third, 50 seconds behind Dyas/Taylor, but a similar margin ahead of Koerner/Pellini, who had Crosby/Procter just three seconds behind.

The regularities saw the demise of the local crew, Patrick Betteridge/Andrew Holmes; their Peugeot 205 GTi suffered a failed alternator. Also the beautiful Lancia Aureilia B20 GT, which was to receive the Concourse d'Elegance Award at the Finish, ended its rally in a ditch.

Crews now embarked on the most demanding part of the event, the four TC sections, which in total had 28 time controls, two timed to the second. The opening section was almost entirely within the confines of Jurby Airfield. Willan/Appleton, Head/Raeburn and Thomas Bricknell/Roger Bricknell (VW Golf GTi) were best here, all dropping just one minute.

Two tests on closed roads over Druidale followed. Willan/Appleton were fastest on the first, while Head/Raeburn took the second.

The next TC Section started just after the end of the second Druidale test and ran, via some hard to find slots, to finish at Glen Vine. Conditions were treacherous with heavy drizzle and thick fog making the going tough.

Car 1, Andy Lane/Iain Tullie, were the first victims; they put their BMW off the road near Injebreck and lost over five minutes before getting out of the ditch. Koerner/Pellini also ended up in a ditch after a tightening left hander caught them out. They limped to the end of the section, but then had to cut to the overnight halt. Their challenge for a top place was over.

The final TC on the section was timed to the second and, once again, it was Willan/Appleton who put in the best time at 59s; Head/Raeburn were four seconds behind them. It was here that the Volvo P1800 of Phil Wood/Kelvin Phipps ended up wrapped around a tree; they went no further.

The penultimate series of TCs used the lanes and track in and around the Archallagan Plantation. Willan/Appleton, Dyas/Taylor and Head/Raeburn all dropped a single minute at the TC following the run through the Plantation.

The most demanding test was the final section of TCs which ended at the South Barrule Forest Park. Willan/Appleton beat Head/Raeburn by a second, while Dyas/Taylor were 12 seconds further behind. This meant that as crews arrived back at Douglas just before Midnight, Willan/Appleton had extended their lead to over two minutes. Dyas/Taylor were in second place, 1m21s ahead of Head/Raeburn.

Crosby/Procter, despite not enjoying the night leg, moved back to fourth, while, having survived their off, Lane/Tullie were fifth.

Pete Johnson had been slated to navigate on the Three Legs, but a few days prior to the event his driver, Noel Kelly, was taken ill. Kelly insisted that Johnson compete in his Volvo 122S and Jo Johnson was drafted in to read the maps. They were in sixth place after the Night Leg.

Three Legs of Mann 2023
Third Placed: Steve Head/Graham Raeburn (Ford Escort)
Photograph: HERO/ERA

Nine tests and six regularities were packed into six hours of rallying on Leg 3, which started at 09:30 on Saturday morning.

Three regularities opened the morning's competition and it was on the first of these that Willan/Appleton miscalculated their required speed and arrived at the third timing point 55 seconds early. This almost halved their advantage as Dyas/Taylor were just over a minute behind at the morning coffee halt, which was taken at St John's.

Between the coffee halt and Lunch crews tackled six tests and two regularities. Three of the tests were back at Jurby, with one being a very well received short side-by-side slalom, with cars being sent off two at a time.

The major casualty on this part of the event were Darren Everitt/Susan Dixon; a rear brake seal popped leaving them with very little stopping power. The fault was repaired and they re-joined after the halt. After their off on the Night Leg, Koerner/Pellini restarted on Saturday morning, but retired with ignition problems at the start of one of the Jurby test.

At Lunch Willan/Appleton had regained some of their advantage at the front, having been fastest in their class on all of the morning tests. Behind them the placings were becoming well spaced out, the main focus was now on the battle for sixth place, where Darell Staniforth/Nicky Staniforth were hunting down Pete Johnson/Jo Johnson. The two crews were just 13 seconds apart at Lunch, with Staniforth/Staniforth having put in the best performance of any crew over the Leg 3 to that point.

Three tests and a regularity were all that remained; the final test being at the TT Grandstand, where the rally had started.

Willan/Appleton completed the event with an advantage of 1m37s, on what was the driver's first visit to the island. As on the Rally of the Tests in November, Dyas/Taylor took the runner spot 1m12s ahead of Head/Raeburn. The latter pair having put in the best performance on Leg 3.

The father and daughter pairing of Staniforth/Staniforth managed to overhaul the husband and wife team of Johnson/Johnson to take sixth place by ten seconds.

The Three Legs marked the 60th Anniversary of the first Manx Trophy Rally and the teams in the Team Competition were named for the top ten finishers on that event. The challenge was won by Team Davenport, which included the BMW of Angus McQueen/Mike Cochrane, remarkably this was the third HERO-ERA event in succession where the pair had been part of the winning team.