Galway rally ace Dean Raftery will head across the Irish Sea this week to contest the final round of the MSA British Rally Championship, Rally Isle of Man. Offering two points scoring opportunities, the fondly named “Manx” will be the most important event in the Irishman’s rallying career as he aims to secure the RallyTwo, FiestaSport Trophy and BRC2 championship honours. With three long days of closed public road rallying ahead, Raftery and regular co-driver Aileen Kelly need to master the unique roads around the small island from the very first stage if they are to take the silverware back to Galway.
The 23 year old Ford Fiesta R2 pilot currently has a hat trick of wins in the RallyTwo category and will aim to build that tally up to five as the event offers the chance to add to the point’s tables after the first full day and then again at the rally finish. With just one point separating Raftery from rival Gus Greensmith, he will need to keep a weather eye on the horizon if he is to the best chance of taking the championship win. “I think the biggest unknown for all of us is the weather on the Isle of Man” he explains. “It certainly has its very own microclimate and trying to predict what will happen is rather pointless on the island. You just have to go with it and do your best to battle through if you make a wrong tyre choice. It will be the same for everyone so it’s how you handle the situation that will make the difference”.
No stranger to closed road rallying, Raftery is confident the Manx roads will suit his driving style. But rather wisely perhaps, the Bluebird Care backed driver thinks a cautious approach could be favourable.
“Of course there is a lot of pressure on us on this event, much more than normal” he explains. “It’s my first time on the island, aside from when I was here as a spectator when I was three months old but we can’t count that. I will need to learn as I go as its totally different to any event I’ve done before, you can’t really compare it to the roads back home so I`ll just have to take it one stage at a time and see where we are.”
But it’s not just the RallyTwo title that is up for grabs on the Manx roads. Raftery is just outside a podium position in the BRC title chase, just one point away from third. Just four points separate him from the top of the FiestaSport Trophy standings and he heads the BRC2 class with six points to spare. But Rally Isle of Man is famous for its unpredictability and Raftery simply cannot afford to relax if he is to end his dream inaugural season in the British Championship.
Rally Isle of Man kicks off on Thursday 11th September, with four stages planned during the evening including a unique spectator stage in Douglas promenade. The bulk of the event competitive mileage is on Friday with stages running well into the night. A final seven stages await on day three, Saturday 13th where the winners will celebrate at the event finish which is hosted by famous TT Grandstand.
Raftery is sponsored by the nationwide home and care service provider Bluebird Care has continued support from Craughwell Tyre Services, King Car Parts and Black Hawk Fuels.
For more information on Dean and his rallying career, visit www.deanraftery.com