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• International Rally Isle of Man – 9 & 10 July 2010.
• Jonny Greer takes third Evo Challenge victory of the season.
• Euan Thorburn claims second on Mitsubishi series debut.
• Alastair Fisher crashes out on first day.

Jonny Greer recorded his third Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge UK victory of the season when, with stand-in co-driver Gordon Noble, he won round four – the International Rally Isle of Man. Round three winners Alastair Fisher and Rory Kennedy initially led the Mitsubishi charge, but an accident on day one brought their Rally to an abrupt end. Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton were second on what was their Evo Challenge debut.

The rally, which took place on the island’s closed roads, also hosted the fourth round of the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship. Following the ceremonial start overlooking Douglas Harbour on Thursday evening, which attracted hoards of spectators, the action got underway from the TT Grandstand the next morning.

Not only fastest of the Evolution Challenge runners, Alastair Fisher/Rory Kennedy also set the quickest overall time through the opening stage. They then stamped their authority on proceedings over the next two stages by continuing to be the fastest of the Mitsubishis and, at the first service halt, were 32 seconds ahead of Greer/Noble in second.

Having swapped from a Subaru Impreza to a Mitsubishi Evo IX during the week leading up to the event, the rally marked an Evolution Challenge debut for Euan Thorburn/Paul Beaton. After a cautious start, whilst they got used to their new car, they held third place by one second ahead of Daniel Sigurdarson/Asta Sigurdardottir who were returning to the island to put the misfortunes of their previous visit to rest.

Following the first service halt, the next loop of three stages saw weather conditions deteriorate, with the mist and light rain adding a further challenge for the crews. Fisher/Kennedy continued to extend their lead in SS4 and SS5, but half-way through stage six the car ran wide on the exit of right-hander as the surface changed to shiny tar, the near-side rear wheel clipping a bank and flipping their Mitsubishi over.

Both Fisher and Kennedy were unharmed, but the same could not be said for their car and consequently their rally was over. This handed the Evo Challenge lead to Greer/Noble who were now third overall and therefore focussing on their British Rally Championship position as well as their Evo Challenge placing – especially as Greer is currently leading the BRC.

Service two followed, where Thorburn admitted that, following an earlier problem with a soft brake pedal, he was lacking a bit of confidence in his new surroundings. He also had a problem starting the engine on arrival at SS6, which meant he and Beaton were late into the control and collected a 30-second penalty.

The same fate then befell Sigurdarson/Sigurdardottir when leaving the service halt, due to a queue of cars blocking access to the out control. However, the Icelander’s Manx bad luck was about to get worse, when his car’s turbo-charger lost its boost in SS8. Greer also had some worrying moments in the same stage when a damper broke, although he made it back to the third service halt of the day without loosing too much time.

Sigurdarson/Sigurdardottir’s problem was found to be a broken actuator, which was fixed at service and the Evo X was back to full power for the final four stages of the day. Or so it would have been if the former Icelandic Champion hadn’t spun on a slippery section of road in the final stage and, having crushed the exhaust pipe, found he had self-induced traction control for the eight miles that remained.

As cars returned to Douglas for the overnight halt after completing Friday’s 13 stages, the time sheets showed Greer/Noble comfortably ahead of Thorburn/Beaton by nearly two minutes, who were in turn now over a minute ahead of Sigurdarson/Sigurdardottir.

Sunday comprised eight stages and competitors were greeted by the now traditional changeable Manx weather, with rain on one side of the mountain and the roads relatively dry on the other – a scenario which made tyre choice important. With the margins between the three remaining crews unlikely to see a change unless one of them had a problem, the podium positions looked predictable – but on the Isle of Man rallies are never over until they’re over – especially when the crews were subjected to driving in monsoon conditions halfway through the day.

Proving the point, Thorburn/Beaton bent their car’s steering when they clipped a rock at the side of the road in SS14 and then over-shot a junction on SS15. However, for Sigurdarson/Sigurdardottir their problems increased, when their car suddenly cut-out for no reason in the middle of SS17. Unable to re-start, they had no choice but to retire on the spot – an unfitting end to a determined drive and a character building few days.

The dramas continued right up to the last stage – a classic 13.27-mile finale that used Druidale, Injebreck and the Baldwins, before a heading into Douglas for the flying finish right outside the TT Grandstand. With just a few miles left to go Thorburn/Beaton clouted a wall and nearly ended their first Evo experience prematurely. However, the damage was only cosmetic and, very relieved, they made it to the finish.

In the mean time, Greer/Noble were playing a tactical game and, although trying to improve on their fourth position in the overall standings, they drove a controlled final leg to ensure they scored their third Evolution Challenge victory and scored enough points in the British Rally Championship to ensure they maintained the lead.

“That was a difficult rally”, said Greer at the finish. “As we couldn’t be caught and it would be difficult to improve on our overall position, I must admit that we took it steady towards the end to make sure we made it to the finish. However, I was delighted that the car went so well, as reliability is so important in this event. I‘m therefore really pleased to have extended my Evo Challenge lead with two events to go and to still be leading the British Championship.”

The fifth round of the Evolution Challenge and the British Rally Championship is the Antrim-based Northern Ireland Rally, which takes place on 21 & 22 August.

The 2010 Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge UK is supported by: Mitsubishi Motors UK, Pirelli tyres, Sunoco fuels, JRM, Cyprus Automobile Association, Fairways Mitsubishi, Speedline Corse wheels, Murray Motorsport, CL brake pads, Sparco racewear and PIAA lights – who sponsor the junior award for under 25-year old drivers. The series was supported on the Isle of Man by the Mylchreest Group.

For the first time this season the winner of the Evolution Challenge in the UK, Ireland and Sweden, will win the same prize: A supported drive in the FxPro Rally Cyprus, the final round of the IRC (Intercontinental Rally Challenge). Then, whichever of the three teams are first home on this event will be crowned European Evolution Challenge Champions. Added to this, the winning driver in the UK will be a guaranteed nomination for the Pirelli Star Driver shoot-out.

Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge UK – Round 4 Results
1 Jonny Greer (Carryduff)/Gordon Noble (Omagh) 2:24:41.5
2 Euan Thorburn (Duns)/Paul Beaton (Inverness) 2:30:18.6

Retirements
SS6 Alastair Fisher (Trillick)/Rory Kennedy (Letterkenny) Accident
SS17 Daniel Sigurdarson (Iceland)/Asta Sigurdardottir (Iceland) Electrical

Series standings

Drivers
1  Jonny Greer 78
2  Daniel Sigurdarson 52
3  Alastair Fisher 20
4  Euan Thorburn 18
5= David Bogie 16
5= Owen Murphy 16
7  Peter Horsey 15

Co-drivers
1  Dai Roberts 58
2  Asta Sigurdardottir 52
3  Rory Kennedy 20
4  Paul Beaton 18
5= Kevin Rae 16
5= James O’Brien 16

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