Three Legs of Mann anniversary rally finishes in historic TT Pit Lane after two hard days
Dan Willan and Mark Appleton (Volvo) overcome top opposition and dire weather to win
Paul Dyas and Martyn Taylor (Volvo) give chase but finish runners up
Steve Head and Graham Raeburn (Ford) take their first podium on first HERO-ERA event
The 60th Anniversary of the first Manx Trophy Rally in 1963 was marked by the Three Legs of Mann rally run in the traditional format, taking in some of the famous Isle of Man rally roads, putting on a truly great contest by some of the best road and regularity crews in Europe.
There was no better way to celebrate the great Manx rallies of the past than to witness wonderful classic rally cars on famous rally roads in all conditions, and a great battle which was finally won by Dan Willan and Mark Appleton in a car fitting of the era, a Volvo PV544. The pair overcame, first of all, initial leaders Paul Crosby and Ali Procter in their Porsche 911, then the challenge of Paul Dyas and Martyn Taylor’s Volvo Amazon, followed by the dire weather which included, fog, mist, rain and sleet at one point.
This was Dan Willan’s first visit to the Isle of Man to compete in the Three Legs of Mann and he took the win first time out with top navigator Mark Appleton who took his second win here. Such was their incredible teamwork that they pulled away from the Dyas/Taylor challenge over the course of the final leg on Saturday to win by 1 minute 37 seconds.
Dan Willan; “It is fantastic to win, but I did get a bit of help from Mark, he was incredible. However, we gave ourselves a bit of a challenge which made it even tougher for us, as we thought we fancied the road at higher speeds than we were meant to be doing, and that definitely made it more exciting! The Volvo was great, just what a fantastic machine, it looks so unlikely but honestly, it’s better than it looks. It’s a quick thing and it goes really well – it’s just fantastic.
“As for Mark, I don’t know how he does it. I mean, I’ve never had a navigator using a calculator before! So, perhaps the trade secret is out now, but he just makes it look so easy, it’s a joy to work with him.”
Mark; “It’s good. It’s the second time I’ve been over on this event, and the second time I’ve won it. It’s great to come back and keep that winning record. Maybe I’ll have to come back again for the hat trick! We had a lot of fun in the car, yes, the result is great, but you know the fact that we’ve had so much fun and laughs in the car over the event, that’s what makes it so enjoyable. We were saying on the run in that, even if something strange had happened and we hadn’t got the result that we have, we’d still have had a wonderful weekend, we had a great time together.”
Paul Dyas; “I am the bridesmaid again, the same as on Rally of the Tests last year, I don’t know what I’ve got to do to beat Willan! I went and entered this nice little rally in the Isle of Man thinking no one else will turn up and the bugger comes and does it and he beats me again. Anyway, I’m looking forward to the Flying Scotsman in four weeks, so that’s another challenge that’s completely different again. No doubt the weather will be the same, but this time we won’t have a roof!”
Martyn Taylor; “You can never beat a good trip to the Isle of Man, it’s always great fun. The weather is always unpredictable, not quite what the brochure said but I don’t think anyone minds, it made the event. If you look at the entry list you certainly have the top 12 to top 50 navigators in this country. It was an incredibly close competition but if you analyse it you will find that most of them all gained their experience as road rally navigators.”
Steve Head, 3rd place driver, Ford Escort, “It was absolutely amazing to finish third because we just set a target of getting to the finish, not the podium, so it’s just brilliant.”
Graham Raeburn, 3rd place navigator,” Yes it was very hard work and exceedingly challenging, but it feels like it’s a deserved finish in third because of the amount of effort we both put in, Steve was driving well, quick and committed in the dark and the fog of Friday night, and I worked really hard on the maps to make sure we didn’t miss any of the many tricky slots. Having lots of enjoyment as well, seeing all the classic rally venues from history as we’ve gone around made the event by experiencing that incredible history.”
Steve; “It has been a great but important event with the 60th anniversary of the Manx Trophy Rally. We have the TT history too so it was all around us. The roads, the terrain, the organisation, it’s just so well put together in every respect.”
There were class wins for Paul Crosby and Ali Procter to go with their fourth place overall in the Porsche 911. Jayne Wignall and Kevin Savage took a great top-ten finish and second in class in their Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint and Mike Cochran and Angus McQueen ghosted into eight overall in their BMW taking the class win after a really impressive performance.
Former champions Paul Bloxidge and Ian Canavan were ninth overall and took the class win in their VW Golf GTi, but for their first time on the island and in the Three Legs, Nicky and Darell Staniforth climbed strongly up the order with some great father and daughter teamwork through the Time Control sections of Friday night. They capitalised in the final leg with a superb sixth overall plus the class win in their Toyota Corolla.
Pete and Jo Johnson survived an engine block oil leak in the Volvo so generously loaned by regular competitor and Isle of Man resident Noel Kelly who could not partner Pete in this rally but is due out of hospital soon. Get well Noel, the car is one piece and Jo and Pete bagged seventh and a class win for you!
Peter and Jo also displayed their sportsmanship by pulling Andy Lane and Iain Tullie’s BMW out of a ditch in the fog of the TC sections late on Friday night. Without that, they would have finished even higher!
The Three Legs of Mann was all about the history and celebrating the 60 years of the Manx Rally, but to have one of the original cars from 1963 competing in 2023 was special. Andy ‘Ace’ Harrison and Henry Carr brought the famous Mini called Orangebox home fourteenth overall, but vitally they were first in class and first Mini home. On Sunday, Andy and Henry will drive to Andy’s Mum’s house where she lives on the Isle of Man, and surprise her with flowers for Mother’s Day from the Orangebox. I hope she doesn’t read this story first.
Stephen Owens won his class with his new navigator Brian Goff as the 2022 HERO Cup champion gets his 2023 season campaign underway having enjoyed the Three Legs of Mann immensely.
It was one for the record books, one that the rallying community and motorsport on the Isle of Man will remember for a long while. When the champions of road and regularity rallying came together to celebrate 60 years of the Manx Rally by putting on one of the best shows possible.