In Nick Rowland's latest exclusive column for Crash.net, the youngster looks back on last month's International Rally Isle Man, his first ever outing on the event...

Finally, after a few years of dreaming and watching others, I finally got a chance to do the Rally Isle of Man last month. I can easily say the rally was the toughest event I have ever done

I have always listened to people go on about how unpredictable the weather is on the island, but I never realised how bad it was until I was there.

The recce for the event went pretty smoothly and it was clear we had made some good steps with my notes since the Jim Clark. I had a handful of wrong notes on the Jim Clark and it made it hard to commit to them 100 per cent but this time around I can't remember any note being wrong.

On day one we had four stages and it was nice and sunny in service, so I went for slicks. Naturally a few miles down the road near the start of SS1 it began to rain. It was not so much of a problem for Marine 1 - or the two Balley Cashtal tests, but for the last stage on the higher ground it was not the right choice. By that time the fog had got worse too, as had the rain. Believe it or not this would be the first time I have ever driven a rally car on wet tarmac.

We managed to get through the stage but I was not that happy. I had a few moments through the stage and under-steered into a wall at one point, but the real problem was I struggled to detect when it was okay to push a bit harder and know what bits had better grip. Unfortunately another Suzuki driver, Gordon Nichol, had a fairly big crash on the stage and would not do any more stages.

At the start of day two we had our first run through Little London and it was wet, wet, wet. Thankfully I was on wet tyres and we had a good run. We lost a bit of time though when we caught the car in front on all of the three morning stages but it was not much of a problem. The second and third stages of the day were much drier and so after service I decided to go out on slicks.

Guess what? Just as we arrived at the next stage it began to rain - a lot. So we lost a bunch of time through the next loop but thankfully got through them okay.

By this point I thought I had learnt my lesson, so I went for wets at the next service as it had been wet all day. Naturally, on the next loop they were dry. I would love to say I have learnt a lot about tyre choice after the rally, but in reality I can't help but think it was a pure lottery for everyone.

Day three and we were in a solid fourth place in the Suzuki Swift Sport Cup and about 70 seconds down on third. I pushed quite hard as I needed to take 10 seconds a stage out of third placed man to overhaul him. On the first stage I overshot one corner and dropped 7 or 8 seconds, which I was annoyed about, but we still took over 20 seconds out of Henry Catchpole. The second stage again I pushed hard and unfortunately went off the road twice, both at slippery points under the trees. The first off only cost me a few seconds but the second time we lost 15 or 20 seconds as we had to rely on spectators to push us back on the road. Amazingly we still took another 20 or so seconds off Henry so we had cut the distance to third by half in two stages. The third stage was wet and maybe I was a bit too cautious on my slicks but I dropped 3 seconds to P3.

I had information that the next stages were going to begin to get wet so I went for wet weather tyres. Unfortunately it was dry everywhere and I lost a second a mile to Catchpole. This undid all the work we had done in the other stages so the gap was back to a minute.

We needed to take 3 seconds a mile out of third place on the last three stages to overhaul them. However it was not to be as my clutch failed before the start. We managed to get to the finish but we dropped three or so minutes, thankfully not enough to lose fourth place.

I have to say it felt good to finish my first Rally Isle of Man. I had learnt more on that event than the last five rallies put together. It was also great to see both David and Mark Higgins on the podium too and both TQ.com cars pick up overall championship points. Tim [Sturla] my co-driver again did a fantastic job as always. I was given a lot of time by FX team member Jon Mills before and after the rally. I hugely appreciated it so many thanks go to him as well. All the boys in service were phenomenal and looked after the car perfectly. You could see everyone was enjoying it so much it was a nice atmosphere to come back to.

Next for me is the Ulster Rally, followed by a round of the Chinese Rally Championship. I can't wait for either and am really enjoying the events more and more as I get more comfortable with my surroundings.

Until next time,

Take care,

Nick.

To find out more about Nick visit his personal website: http://www.nickrowland.co.uk/ or simply CLICK HERE.