Mann up for big challenge

RALLY star David Mann last week blew the winter cobwebs off of his Kumho Tyres shod Group N Subaru Impreza and is now eagerly awaiting his first event of the season — the Tour of Epynt in mid-Wales on Sunday.

The 2011 season marks a change of direction for Flixton-based mushroom farmer Mann and his long-standing co-driver Alun Cook with the duo deciding not to aim at a particular championship but instead to concentrate on certain “target events” including the mid-summer Geko Ypres Rally in Belgium – part of the highly-acclaimed Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC).

In preparation for the famous Belgian closed roads rally, former National Rally Champion Mann, pictured, admits that getting some miles in on tarmac is a priority, so he has already spent a day at Millbrook Proving Ground, a purpose-built automobile test facility in Bedfordshire.

He said: “The IRC has become like a rival to the World Championships and I think virtually every stage of the opening round – the Monte Carlo Rally – was televised live on Eurosport.

“Epynt is good practice for us although now we are in a less modified Group N Subaru, it’s not so suited to our car. The stages are open and very fast and we might struggle to stay with some of the many more powerful cars over the stages.

“Epynt also tends to be very specialised and some of the drivers do up to four rallies there every year so, if they’ve been doing that for the last 20 years, it means they know just about every bump in the road!

“We realise that we are up against a lot of local knowledge and some very powerful cars but our target is to win the Group N category while finishing as high up on the overall leader board as we can.”

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Mann and Cook are seeded at number 10 out of over 90 starters for Sunday’s seven-stage rally, which begins on the Epynt military ranges and finishes, some 80 “timed to the tenth of a second” miles later, at Brecon Leisure Centre where they will hope to join the presentation celebrations in the evening.

Mann added: “Our next event might be the Jim Clark Rally in the Scottish borders at the end of May but we’ll see how this weekend goes first and, if things go according to plan, we are also looking at possibly doing one or two other IRC rounds, including San Remo in September.”

Tour of Epynt Top Ten: 1 Peter Lloyd/Graham Handley (Subaru Impreza WRC), 2 Damian Cole/Craig Drew (Ford Focus WRC), 3 Simon Mauger/Brian Cammack (Ford Escort Mk II), 4 John Stone/Patrick Walsh (Skoda Fabia WRC), 5 Seb Ling/Aled Rees (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9), 6 Mark Jasper/Don Whyatt (Hyundai Accent WRC), 7 John Indri/Dave Engwell (Darrian T90 GTR), 8 Bob Fowden/Jason Sugden (Subaru Impreza), 9 Graham Coffey/David Gamblin (Subaru Impreza WRC), 10 David Mann/Alun Cook (GpN Subaru Impreza).