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2009 Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship – Round 4 – Manx Telecom Rally – Fri 8th/ Sat 9th May 2009

The battle for the 2009 Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship is set to continue when crews make their one and only trip away from the UK mainland and head over to the Isle of Man for the annual Manx Telecom Rally which takes place next weekend.

The all-tarmac, two-day event marks the halfway point in what is proving to be a dramatic season and the demanding fast and narrow lanes of the Isle of Man are expected to throw up a few more surprises along the way.

After three rounds, the points table is headed by the Mitsubishi Ralliart Evo Challenge drivers, Daniel Barry (Enniskerry) and Simon Hughes (Abergele), who are separated by just two points but all is not as it seems as with the scoring system of a competitor’s best five results from eight rounds counting, the issue of dropped scores is likely to come into play soon.

That will mean that ANCRO’s ‘big three’ are likely to come into contention after they
all missed out on Rallye Sunseeker when defending champion Marcus Dodd (Poole) as well as other former champions Steve Perez (Chesterfield) and Paul Bird (Penrith) all failed to see the Bournemouth finish ramp.

Since then, Dodd has taken back to back victories on the Brick and Steel Border Counties Rally as well as the Pirelli Tour of Cumbria over the past couple of months in his Hyundai Accent WRC, with the Ford Focus WRC07 pairing of Perez and Bird trading the other podium placings to edge up the leaderboard, and all know how vital a win around The Island could be.

For Dodd, it would mean he would have won three rounds with Bird and Perez yet to take a victory, and with the latter two missing from the Severn Valley National Rally later in the month due to competing on Rally Barbados, it could mean that the four-times champion has title number five within sight. But if tarmac specialist Bird or Perez, who has recruited Swedish world championship co-driver Staffan Parmander in as co-driver for the event, manages the win, then it really will be game on going into the final three events.

Dodd and co driver Andrew Bargery (Hove) have taken maximum points in the past on the event and Bird, along with co driver Ian Windress (Northallerton), have also been on the podium too although Perez has never enjoyed the best of luck on the Manx, crashing out spectacularly in 2006 although he did manage a 4th place overall the following year.

Irishman Barry and co driver Martin Brady (Nevan) along with Welsh counterpart Hughes and his co driver Craig Parry (Oswestry) will no doubt resume battle in Group N and are expected to show well and add to their points tally and both Nik Elsmore (Coleford) and Owen Murphy (Kilcrea) cannot be ruled out as they are both currently in the top five of the overall standings, whereas Alan Cookson (Saltash) and co driver Julian Wilkinson (Wandsworth) will be out to maintain their bid for class honours in their Subaru and they’ll be looking to add to their decent scores in the opening three rounds.

The Manx Telecom Rally gets underway at 19.00 on Friday 8th May with the traditional stage through the streets of Port Erin before a loop of stages in the fading daylight takes crews back to Douglas for the overnight halt. Saturday sees a full day of action around the Manx lanes starting at 08.45 before the finish at the TT Grandstand around 16.30.

For full details, including spectator information, go to
www.manxrally.org and for championship positions and other information, visit www.gravelrally.co.uk

2009 Pirelli MSA Gravel Rally Championship Standings after Round Three

1 Daniel Barry (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 59
2 Simon Hughes (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 57
3 Marcus Dodd (Hyundai Accent WRC) 51
4 Nik Elsmore (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 49
5 Owen Murphy (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 47
6 Alan Cookson (Subaru Impreza WRC) 46
7 Alan Carmichael (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9) 43
= Steve Perez (Ford Focus WRC) 43
= Paul Bird (Ford Focus WRC) 43
10 Sean Devine (Subaru Impreza WRC) 25

2009 Events
Round 1 – 27/28th February – Rallye Sunseeker, Bournemouth
Round 2 – 21st March – Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally, Jedburgh
Round 3 – 18th April – Pirelli Tour of Cumbria, Carlisle
Round 4 – 8/9th May – Manx Telecom Rally, Douglas
Round 5 – 30th May – Severn Valley Rally, Builth Wells
Round 6 – 18th July – Swansea Bay Rally, Swansea
Round 7 – 5th September – Woodpecker Rally, Ludlow
Round 8 – 26th September – Trackrod Rally, Pickering

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