Aberystwyth rally driver Steve Wood finished third in the Manx National over the weekend after overcoming a sluggish start.

The reigning Protyre Asphalt champion finally got his title defence off the ground with a commendable third place in his Trailhead Get Jerky-backed Ford Fiesta WRC.

Co-driven by Kenny Hull, Wood admitted to a sluggish start, but once in the groove he never made a mistake and made the most of the points offered on this, the double header round of the UK’s premier sealed-surface series.

Callum Black said that he was going to win the Manx National Rally – and despite it being his first asphalt rally for 10 years, the Brackley driver was true to his word as he and co-driver Jack Morton won the event in their 586 Sports-prepared and Pirelli-shod Pallas Connections Ford Fiesta Rally2.

The 3min 17.9sec winning margin doesn’t reflect the incredibly close and fierce flat-out battle he had for victory with David Wright/Paula Swinscoe – and whilst Black scored maximum Round 3 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship points for coming out on top on the final day two, it was Wright who took maximum Round 2 points for leading after day one.

Having only driven the Fiesta Rally2 on asphalt for the first time on the Manx shakedown stage, Black led the event after the opening two stages. 

Wright took the lead on SS3 and when Black landed a little off line on SS4 and filled two wheels up with mud, causing a vibration, Wright’s advantage at the top shot up from 3.8 to 13.6secs.

Manx national Rally winner Callum Black
Callum Black and co driver Jack Morton in their Ford Fiesta Rally2 (Russ Otway / Mark Sims)

Despite a brake issue on SS9, Wright led at the overnight halt – and continued to lead after the first two stages of day two.

But he couldn’t hold back Black, who drove brilliantly to speed into a 2.6 second lead after SS12. With the pace at the front even hotter than the dry and sunny Isle of Man weather, a mistake by Wright on SS14 saw his Michelin-shod Grove Hill Garage Ford Fiesta R5 break the rear right suspension, forcing him to park up.

“I really enjoyed the Manx National, and that’s half the battle sometimes, isn’t it?” said Black.

“We just got a better feeling as the rally progressed and learned what we could and couldn’t do with the car, and the Fiesta Rally2 was a real privilege to drive to be honest. 

“When I came passed David [Wright] and saw that he had an issue it just fried my head for the next two miles, and I didn’t really know how to drive. But I got my head down, regained by concentration and it proved to be enough.”

Pace, patience, and a largely problem-free run were the keys to success for Neil Roskell. The former Manx Rally winner had been fifth at the end of day one, and when others ahead of him hit problems he and co-driver Andrew Roughead were in prime position to benefit in their Michelin-shod ND Civils/Burdens/Witham Motorsport Ford Fiesta Rally2.

They had to survive an alternator belt problem and almost put the car off the road on day two, but their impressive run of never finishing lower than second on the Isle of Man continues as they take the lead at the top of the overall drivers’ and co-drivers’ standings.

And the others hitting problems in front of Roskell were Welsh drivers Kevin Davies and Hugh Hunter, who had been in a monumental battle for a podium result. Davies blinked first when he and fellow Carmarthen man Owain Davies crashed their Melvyn Evans Motorsport-prepared Cobra Hydraulics-backed Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 on day two’s opening stage, which forced SS10 to be stopped. 

This left Hunter in command of third in his RSH Tarmac-backed Ford Fiesta Rally2, until the Ruthin driver dropped to 10th after losing four minutes on SS11. He and co-driver Rob Fagg fought back to sixth, before crashing heavily on the final stage.

Manx National Rally – top 10 registered 2023 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship finishers (after SS17): 

1. Callum Black/Jack Morton (Ford Fiesta Rally2)….1hr 58mins 16.1secs

2. Neil Roskell/Andrew Roughead (Ford Fiesta Rally2)….2hrs 01mins 33.9secs

3. Steve Wood/Kenny Hull (Ford Fiesta WRC)….2hrs 02mins 40.9secs

4. Wayne Sisson/Peredur Davies (Mitsubishi Evo 10)….2hrs 05mins 43.2secs

5. William Hill/Richard Crozier (Ford Fiesta Rally3)….2hrs 08mins 02.0secs

6. Sam Adams/Michael Johnston (Ford Escort Mk2)….2hrs 08mins 27.8secs

7. Will Rowlands/Emyr Hall (Ford Escort RS1800)….2hrs 09mins 30.1secs

8. Olly Hunter/Matt Daniels (Ford Escort Mk2)….2hrs 13mins 24.7secs

9. Gerry Fitzelle/Mark Mason (Ford Escort Mk2)….2hrs 13mins 46.0secs

10. Joe McKeand/Charlotte McDowall (Subaru Impreza)….2hrs 15mins 42.9secs

2023 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship – top 6 drivers’ overall after Round 3: 

1. Neil Roskell….74pts

2. Will Hill….60pts

3. David Wright….59pts

4. Callum Black….58pts

5. Steve Wood….52pts

6. Will Rowlands….52pts