Mushroom farmer is now rally champ
A MUSHROOM farmer near Bungay achieved his lifetime's ambition by winning the National Rally Championship even though he sees motor sport as a hobby.David Mann, 44, of Flixton, could have been crowned at the sixth rally in south west Scotland but unfortunately his clutch broke which meant he had to finish ninth or above at the seventh and final rally in Shrewsbury last Saturday but did it the easy way by finishing fourth.
A MUSHROOM farmer near Bungay achieved his lifetime's ambition by winning the National Rally Championship even though he sees motor sport as a hobby.
David Mann, 44, of Flixton, could have been crowned at the sixth rally in south west Scotland but unfortunately his clutch broke which meant he had to finish ninth or above at the seventh and final rally in Shrewsbury last Saturday but did it the easy way by finishing fourth.
The seeds of success had already been sown by making the top three on four of the previous six rounds including a victory on the Isle of Man in May.
But the quiet and modest farmer said his main concern was still selling 40,000 mushrooms a week, especially with the challenge of cheaper foreign imports.
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Mr Mann who employs up to 60 workers on his Flixton farm, said: "Growing mushrooms is my job. Rallies are only seven weekends a year but the job is seven days a week, as mushrooms don't stop growing at weekends.
"The main problem with mushrooms now is trying to compete with cheap foreign imports from Ireland, Holland and Poland. It's been quite tough, and we keep hoping it will get better.
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"We're not doing as much supermarket trade as before although we still supply Aldi and Spar, plus restaurants and hotels."
His wife, Julie, and three daughters, Laura, 21, Helen, 16, and Alison, 12, are all supportive of his 'hobby' and have separate interests of their own to pursue.
Mr Mann has been running family business for the last 20 years but has always been interested in motor sport since his "legs were long enough to touch the pedals", and used to drive around the farm in old cars and tractors.
He dabbled in stock car racing and entered local club car rallies in the late 1970s before competing in the national championships for the first time in 1982.
But Mr Mann does not have the time or the facilities to practice rallying as his car is kept in Northamptonshire and he needs private roads to drive on.
He came fourth at last year's championship and second in 2001 but when he talks about winning he insisted on using 'we' as it was very much a team effort alongside his co-driver and navigator, mechanics and his sponsors, Kumho Tyres, Bill GwynneMotorsport, Competition Car Insurance, and of course, Flixton Mushrooms.
He said: "I'd like to thank all of our sponsors because we wouldn't have been there and had the opportunity to win if it hadn't been for them. It was a good feeling to win and a long time coming."
Mr Mann will be formally presented with the championship in Northamptonshire in December.