As five-time REIS MSA Asphalt Rally Champion Damian Cole bids for a sixth consecutive title, he has chosen the Tyneside Stages on which to debut his recently acquired Fiesta WRC. The familiar red Focus, that has proved so successful in recent times, will be left in the garage as, following retirement last time out, Cole and codriver Jack Morton bid to put their 2015 season back on track.
The Tyneside Stages kicks off the second half of the REIS Championship season and it will, indeed, be Cole/Morton who lead the capacity 90-car entry away from the start on Sunday 2nd August. Steve Simpson/Patrick Walsh are next in their Subaru Impreza WRC, while current Championship leader Simon Mauger and Jonathan Hawkins take the No.3 slot in their Metro 4M4. Mauger won the event in 2010 in a MkII Escort and was also 3rd in a similar car last year.
John Indri/Peter James will be hoping to put a fraught start to the season behind them as they bring their Impreza S11 on the long journey north from Essex. Indri is also a past winner on the Otterburn Ranges, having taken his Darrian T90 to victory on the Cheviot Keith Knox Stages in 2012. Meanwhile, last year’s Tyneside Stages-winning co-driver Andrew Roughead is sitting with Alex Laffey in his Fiesta R5+ and will be looking to use his considerable knowledge of the area to good effect.
For Dumfries-based David Hardie/John McCulloch, the Tyneside represents one of the shorter journeys to the start of a round of the Asphalt Championship! Their Impreza has finished all three events it has contested so far and, as they head east across the country, Hardie holds 2nd place in the Drivers’ table, behind Mauger, while McCulloch is the leading Co-driver!
David Tinn/Giles Dykes (MEM Proton Satria) and Bob Fowden/Ashley Trimble (Impreza) complete the Top Ten on what will, doubtless, be a very competitive day’s motorsport! Phil Sandham, co-driving for Nigel Feeney (Impreza), will be hoping for a more sedate run over the Ranges than was the case this time last year when he and Darren Atkinson walked away from an almighty accident in the latter’s Escort MkII!
The first of the Escorts in this year’s entry, chasing Millington Rear-Wheel Drive Challenge points as well as overall, is that of Mark Jasper and co-driver Don Whyatt who originally hails from the north-east and whose knowledge of Otterburn is better than many. Their main opposition is likely to come from Escorts in the hands of Paul Evans (MkII) and Darren & Sue Underwood (G3), plus the BMW M3 of Richard Felgate/Mark Mason.
Starting in amongst that battle – and anxious to stay out of it! – are the Imprezas of Richard Clews, whose Class B13 car was running in the Top Ten on the Manx National Rally before technical issues intervened, and the Group N-leading version of David & Mathew White.
As far as the AB Motorsport Front-Wheel Drive Challenge is concerned, Kev Monaghan/Chris Purvis will lead contenders on to the Ranges in their Escort F2 Maxi. Having missed the recent ALMC Stages while some specialist parts were sourced for the car, they will be anxious to make up some lost ground on their ‘home’ territory.
Royston & Bridge Carey (Renault Clio) currently lead their respective points tables and it goes without saying that the father-and-son crew will be out to ensure that that is still the case at the end of the day! Andrew Hockridge/Aled Edwards (Citroen DS3 R3) finished just behind them in Ireland – and start just behind them on the Tyneside!
There is a strong 1400cc contingent contesting the REIS Championship this year which is currently led by the Nissan Micra of Ian & Mags Kelly. Ian Barnard/Richard Bonner’s Nova came out on top on the ALMC Stages, while Steve Brown/Paul Slinger (Nissan Micra Kit Car) and Andrew Irving (Peugeot 205) will also be out to stake their respective claims!
The Tyneside Stages is also the second asphalt round of the inaugural BTRDA Rally Challenge, featuring a mixed-surface calendar of events taken from the MSA Asphalt Championship and the BTRDA Rally Series and competitors registered with either one are eligible to take part.
Following the recent Nicky Grist Stages, the Top Six in the provisional table are Damian Cole, Ash Slights (1.4 Toyota Yaris), Stephen Petch (Fiesta S2000), Steve Simpson, Callum Black (Citroen DS3 R3) and Sara Williams (Impreza), all of whom will be present at the weekend.
The route of this year’s Tyneside Stages Rally takes in 13 special stages, totalling 80 miles, on the Otterburn Military Ranges in Northumberland. Competitors have the opportunity of a slow-speed recce of the stages the day before the rally and then, bright and early on Sunday 2nd August, the first car will leave the start on the Airstrips at 8.31am. The event is due to finish mid-afternoon, with the prize-giving taking place at the Otterburn Leisure Centre shortly afterwards.
Further information on the REIS MSA Asphalt Rally Championship, from the Coordinator :
Andrew Haill – Tel: 0121 313 1416/E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit the Championship website : http://www.asphaltrallying.com
Simon Mauger image courtesy of Special Stage all others courtesy of 90right.com