Rallying Isle of Man Style
Once you have sampled the Isle of Man for motor sport then no where else seems quite the same.
Having been on holiday on the I.O.M on several occasions, naturally to see various forms of motor sport, including the Manx Rally and Motor Bikes. The island is without doubt so unique with its scenery and picturesque beauty, for such a small island its terrain varies to such a huge degree, this is what makes it such an attraction for anyone who loves motor sport. Naturally the Island is also world famous for the TT motorcycle races which have been held there for many years.
Over the last couple of years my good lady wife Irene and myself have taken our annual holidays at this Mecca of Motor sport, which our 2004 break had been nicely timed to coincide with the start of the Manx International Rally. This rally has recently moved from its original September date to late July, early August.
We have to say a big thank you to Nick Hunt and his wife Chris, who now live on the Island, after recently retiring from West Midlands Police. They introduced us to an excellent Bed & Breakfast establishment. This is based on a farm in the south of the island near to Castletown. It is known as Ballaquinney Farm and offers everything anyone requires to have a wonderful relaxing (motor sport) or just a well deserved relaxed holiday. Pauline Cooley and Husband Maurice, who run this farm and the B & B really do know how to provide the finer points of life for their guests, in fact the service and facilities are faultless.
The other beauty of staying at Ballaquinney Farm is that two of the Manx Rally special stages encompass tight lanes around the farm, so for the first time ever marshalling on this event had become very easy indeed.
We had offered our services as marshals and naturally volunteered to look after a couple tight bends and junctions that are located only a few yards from the farmhouse. The stage was the second one of the 2004 event and was run at night and to give the authentic feel it rained and the Manx mist came with it. However, the weather conditions were not a problem on this occasion, because for the fist time ever we were able to get ourselves ready in the warmth and luxury of accommodation and then have a gentle walk of only a few hundred yards to our marshalling points.
Marshalling in most cases means a long drive to and from events in all sorts of conditions and at all unsociable hours, but not on this occasion.
No sooner had we settled at our marshalling point, the road closure car came through, which signals that any barriers or prohibition tape must be erected thus preventing anyone getting on to the now live rally stage. The rain and Manx mist was making our visibly limited, but for those poor competitors they were soon be in for a shock. After only a short interval of the road closure car, came the first course opening cars, followed briskly by the competitors. The spectacle of high powered rally cars in the lanes at night with a full array of powerful spot lights is really exciting, something that was common place on night road rallies on the mainland back in the seventies. Fortunately all the competing cars past our point without any major dramas, only a couple of minor overshoots at a 90 right junction, but other than that it was good couple of hours of high speed action.
Once the roads open signal was given and the stage furniture and tapes were taken down, all that was left was a short stroll back to the farm for a relaxing drink and shower then off to bed. This is how marshalling should be, having the special stage right on the door step is superb.
The following day was kept for spectating out on the rally in and around other parts of the island and also nicely combined with sight seeing as well. The weather did not disappoint either, bringing the Island to its glorious best.
On the last day of the rally we had volunteered once again to marshal the lanes and junctions right by Ballaquinney Farm, the stage did not start until around 10.00 am, so being able to have a full English breakfast without rushing was a bonus. After breakfast, we had a gentle stroll to the end of the farm drive to take up our marshalling positions; the weather was on this occasion fine and warm. We experienced another couple of hours of excellent rally action, then it was back to the Farm for a spot of lunch followed by home made fruit cake.
A visit to the Rally grandstand in Douglas is essential not just to see the finish of the 2004 Manx Rally but also to claim our free Manx T shirts, along with a free hot meal and drink for all our voluntary efforts and time we spent helping out on the rally.
The remainder of our time on the Isle of Man was taken up by visiting new and old haunts from previous holidays and enjoying some of the Islands beauty spots and its history, as there is so much to see.
Thanks once again to Pauline and Maurice for making our stay on the Isle of Man an excellent one. It was also really good to meet up with Nick and Chris Hunt, itís quite obvious that they are both enjoying semi-retirement on the island and Nick did indicate that he was not working too hard.