Jason Pritchard
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03/02/2015 by admin

Pritchard wins the Manx National Rally after a stunning drive

Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke put in a fantastic performance in their North Road Garage Ford Focus WRC over the weekend to win the 2014 Manx National Rally, after what was a dramatic finish to the 14-stage, two-day event.

Rewind back a year and Pritchard along with his co-driver Phil Clarke had just finished an agonising second in the 2013 Manx National Rally by a mere 3.4 seconds, so to finish top of the pile this year was the perfect response from the 25 year old Welshman.

Twelve months on and, in a fascinating finish to the 2014 Manx National Rally, Pritchard and Clarke arrived back at the TT Grandstand as victors. Pritchard put in a solid performance in difficult conditions during the Friday night and continued this right through to the Saturday to eventually win by a margin of 42 seconds from Ollie Mellors and Ian Windress.

The Manx National Rally is a closed road asphalt rally, which takes place on the Isle of Man and since its inception in 1980, it’s one of the most popular rallies in the British Isles, so Pritchard was over the moon with the impressive victory:

“I’m absolutely thrilled to win here in the Isle of Man, it was a while before all the times had been added up but the wait was well worth it when we were confirmed as the Manx National Rally winners. This is easily the biggest result of my rallying career, to win on the Isle of Man means so much to me. The venue is very special and is known right over the world for its motorsport events, so to be crowned winners of such a significant rally is an achievement I’m incredibly proud of.”

Friday was a nervous start for Pritchard who admitted that the car was struggling on the fast and bumpy sections of the first stages, so much so the team was forced into a setup change in the first service:

“We hadn’t been back in the car since the same event last year, so it took us a while to get back into the swing of things and also familiar with the stages again. Stage Four is always a stern test and I was pleased to get through this, we were the quickest car out there on Stage Five as we started to pick up the pace. We experienced problems in the later stages of the evening but managed to keep in touching distance of the leaders.”

Pritchard and Clarke were determined to start Saturday well and were right on the pace in the first three stages of the morning, the team were fastest on the first stage of the morning and this set the standard for the rest of the day:

The first three stages on Saturday afternoon went really well, we were fastest on the first and third stage and that allowed us to build a good starting point for the challenge that lay ahead. I really felt comfortable in the car and back on the stages, the pace was really quick and we felt confident for the day’s stages.

“We were conscious of being careful with our tyres during the dry stages as we ran on wet weather tyres and encountered a problem with only a mile left, I got a right rear puncture and the car instantly started to brake up causing us a number of problems. We had some luck on our side when we ended up in ditch, as we weren’t going so fast, I managed to drive straight out again – much to our relief!”

Paul Bird had led the rally from the outset with co-driver Aled Davies, but they crashed out heavily on the Brandywell on Saturday morning, leaving the top places up for grabs and Pritchard was determined to be there at the finish:

“During the final loop of stage and less than half a mile in we saw that Paul Bird had gone off the road at very high speed but luckily and thankfully both Paul and Aled were out the car and ok. I turned out to be quickest on this stage but I didn’t know for sure my standing, if I was in-front or how far behind I was, so at this point all we could do was go flat out on the final 2 stages.

“Going into Stage 14, Phil and I were confident of putting in a strong finish. It’s a stage we both love and we went 12.9 seconds quicker than anyone else during the final stage – putting us in a really strong position.”

After a long wait for the final times to be added up and announced, it was confirmed that Pritchard and Clarke had won the Manx National Rally, a huge achievement which demonstrates the Welsh driver’s ability and desire to be at the very top of the rallying world:

“It was a very special victory and it’s a victory I couldn’t have achieved without all the fantastic people around me. My parents have been amazing and I can’t thank them enough for their support and faith in me throughout some difficult times and for making this achievement possible.

“This result could not have happened without the perfect performance from my co-driver Phil Clarke. He makes things happen and was a constant help throughout the build up to the event. As always, a huge thanks to the boys in the service for sorting out the car when we had a few problems. Another top performance!

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank North Road Garage Builth Wells and Pirelli for their continued support and last but not least, thank you to all the organisers and marshals who braved some terrible weather over the two days, if it wasn’t for all of you we wouldn’t have had such a brilliant event.”