There’s no doubt that Rally Isle of Man has some of the best roads in the world. But in my experience, I’ve never known competitors be so upset with how a rally was run as last weekend’s event.
I’d like to provide some context. The event has been struggling for years with marshal numbers, and that continued this year. Delays and even stages being cancelled was a recurring theme on the event, and the island has a real problem. When it was part-funded by cigarette companies and even sunroof manufacturers the organisers could throw out deals to get marshals to the island.
With rallying struggling to make an impact commercially, it’s tough to find the budget to do things like that. And it’s not like there’s an abundance of marshals on events in the mainland either…
But, with that in mind, the event needs to take a look at its format to accommodate that fact. The organisers are keen to put on an epic Manx every year, and that’s great. The passion is unquestionable.
What is questionable is why we have an event that starts on Wednesday with shakedown, a day before the Ulster gets underway, and it only runs 27 extra miles. It is something which the Ulster pulls off in three days, not four.
With marshal numbers low, isn’t making an event start on a Wednesday with shakedown bad for the volunteers who have other jobs? Perhaps a change of format to run stages closer together could help with the fewer number of marshals seen year on year?
On SS15, where drivers were made to wait over 50 minutes to start a stage before going in stone cold, the drivers were furious. Surely the simple solution would have been to run the cars through the stage non-competitively to warm their engines and tyres, and put them into the next stage?
So much is wonderful about the Manx and it’s thanks to these organisers that the event exists. They had everything and the kitchen sink thrown at them this year, including a fire in a seafront hotel during the promenade stage and the incident with Jamie Jukes and David Williams. For their work dealing with these incidents they deserve credit. And to the marshals, standing out in the cold to perform duties is something I admire greatly.
One of the great losers was the people at home, who had no idea what was going on in a BRC championship finale that was won by a point and a tenth of a second. It won’t be celebrated like 1997, despite being closer.
I hope the organisers get a good rest and return to plan a better event for 2018, as their position on the BRC calendar is in question. Less than half of the registered 2017 BRC crews made the trip to Douglas, which is a worrying stat.
Other crews I spoke to through the field were upset with long delays forcing them into less sleep despite relatively early starts. Let’s hope something can be done to improve this magical event.