Asphalt Asides 2014 – Edition 3

This time last year Jason Pritchard had just recorded one of the best results of his career, taking his Ford Focus WRC to 2nd overall on the Manx National Rally, the second round of the REIS MSA Asphalt Rally Championship. Having not been seen in the series since, he returned to the Isle of Man and duly took the victory that narrowly eluded him in 2013.

On an event that took place during what can best be described as ‘changeable’ weather, the 25-year old from Builth Wells nevertheless had his work cut out, arriving at the final control at the famous TT Grandstand, on the outskirts of Douglas, 42.7 seconds ahead of the Proton Millington Satria of Ollie Mellors who, at just 18-years old, was having his first experience of the Manx stages.

Taking 3rd overall, to follow a similar result on the Tour of Epynt, Steve Simpson/Patrick Walsh (Subaru Impreza WRC) move to the top of their respective points tables as the Championship reaches its one-quarter stage.

The ‘Stars of the Rally’, at least for eleven of the fourteen stages, were Paul Bird & Aled Davies. ‘Birdy’ was going for what would have been his fourth win, to equal Melvyn Evans’ tally, while Aled stood to become the first competitor – driver or co-driver – to win three Manx Nationals on the bounce.

To put their performance into perspective, in 2013 they finished the Friday night leg of the rally one second in the lead – this time, against a field of similar quality, the difference was 2½ minutes!… Saturday dawned and off they set for Leg 2 – no FTDs but a measured drive, or so it seemed, to maintain station.

Then, half a mile into the second run through Druidale, the Focus slid up a bank and the front dug in, pitching it into a multiple roll. Game over – fortunately without serious injury to either crew member, which is more than can be said for the car. The team at Dom Buckley’s knew immediately that they would have their work cut out if it was to be re-prepared in time for its trip to Rally Barbados….

Benefiting from Bird’s demise, Pritchard took over at the helm, proving that the 2013 result was no ‘flash in the pan’. Mellors, meanwhile, was 6th fastest on the opening run through Port Erin and up to 4th after the second. Two fastest stage times came on Saturday morning during a superb run that earned him the John Horton Motorsport Management ‘Star Performer’ award on the event. At his first attempt, Ollie equaled the best result achieved by his father, Chris, who was a regular visitor to the Isle of Man on his way to his three consecutive ANCRO Championship titles in the mid 90s.

After the resolution of some timing queries, Stone/Carl Williamson’s Skoda Fabia WRC took a fine 4th place which, coupled with a similar result on Epynt, moves the pair up to 2nd in the points encouraging start to the season.

Graham Coffey’s Fiesta WRC finished just outside the Top Ten, a couple of places ahead of the Mitsubishi Lancer EVO of Gary Nuttall. The Fiesta R5+ of Alex Laffey/Jack Morton was 15th, giving the pair some renewed confidence after their off on Epynt.

Darren Atkinson/Phil Sandham took top points in the Millington Rear-Wheel Drive Challenge, with Keith Robathan and Pete Rayner helping to make it an Escort 1-2-3. Indeed, good results on each of the first two rounds of the Championship have put Darren up to 3rd overall in the Championship, behind Simpson and Stone. Dan Taylor/Andy Conibear broke the Ford monopoly with 4th in their BMW Compact.

Once again the Underwoods, Darren & Sue to the fore in their 1600cc Vauxhall Nova 32nd overall and a class win on the event and maximum class and FWD points in the Championship. Paul Clapham was next in his Peugeot 106 and new recruits, Andrew Hockridge/Aled Edwards (Citroen DS3 R3) were third.

Running concurrently with, and over exactly the same route as, the Manx National Rally, the Chris Kelly Memorial Rally allowed National ‘B’ licence holders to join in the fun. Between them, an entry of just over 100 included 41 Championship Championship-registered contenders. In addition to those already mentioned, Lee Farrer/Neil Bye took a class win in their Ford Puma.

The Honda Civic of Tom Jones – (don’t worry, he’s heard all the jokes!) was seeded at 104 and finished 42nd. Unsurprisingly, the £50 Fuchs Titan Race product voucher headed in his direction on this occasion.

OK, we know life isn’t fair but, after all the effort and expense necessary to even take the start of an event on the Isle of Man, retirement on the opening stage is a pretty tough pill to swallow! Nevertheless, Chris Marshall/Simon Hunter’s Lancer EVO5 snapped a driveshaft on the start line of the first run through Port Erin and, having had something of a nightmare getting the car across to the island in the first place, Ian Copping/Dave Rowley could reasonably have expected to get further than the opener before their Focus’ rear differential lunched itself.

Equally disappointing and certainly more frustrating, Championship leaders prior to the start Damian Cole/Elliott Edmondson were heading for 3rd place when their Focus’ fly-by-wire throttle failed on the final stage. No doubt, the air will have turned blue in the red car!…

Points tables following the Manx National Rally have already been circulated and, in the absence of any queries, will go final at midday on Wednesday 21st May.

Motors TV’s broadcast schedule for each round of this year’s Asphalt Championship is such that Wayne Goldring has a week less to prepare each individual programme. The coverage of the Manx National Rally is scheduled for broadcast at 9.00pm on Friday 23rd May. Recordings will be available shortly afterwards on the Championship website:

Special Stage always want to make them as extensive and entertaining as possible and, in order to achieve this, depend very much on information received from you both during and after each event. Therefore, they would love to hear from you with snippets on how your day went and any particular incidents or dramas. They will also consider taking film coverage taken from your in-car cameras.

Contact : and there is a form to fill in on their website :


JIM CLARK NATIONAL RALLY (30th/31st May) – The only closed-road rally on the mainland is almost upon us. Full details are available from

ALMC STAGES (6th July). This year’s ALMC Stages Rally is based at the Castle Arch Hotel in Trim, Co Meath. Parc Ferme will be in the adjacent County Council Offices, while the trailer park and scrutineering are in the adjoining commercial premises. Further details from

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