Preview Round 3 – SMARTPART ALMC Stages Rally

As contenders for the 2016 MSA Asphalt Rally Championship make the annual trip across the Irish Sea to the Smartpart ALMC Stages Rally, multiple former champion Damian Cole and co-driver Paul Morris top the overall points tables in their Ford
Fiesta WRC. In Championship terms, third overall on the Tour of Epynt and 4th on the Manx National Rally have produced significantly different outcomes – two registered crews (Steve Simpson/Patrick Walsh and Simon Mauger/Jon Hawkins) finished
ahead of them on Epynt, but they returned home from the Isle of Man with maximums as they continue their bid for the coveted title. Cole won the ALMC Stages back in 2010 and, since then, has finished in runner-up spot on three separate occasions. Now would be a good time to take a second victory but, as the event is also a round of the Triton Showers Irish National Rally Championship this year, the battle for top honours will be fiercer than ever!

toe16_simpson 2Having started the season with a victory, Steve Simpson (Subaru Impreza WRC) was then forced to miss Round 2 due to work commitments. With Patrick Walsh reading the notes, Steve returns for the ALMC Stages as he attempts to regain the upper
hand. With each competitor’s five best scores from the seven rounds to count, there is still plenty of time for some major changes to the look of the leaderboard!

John Stone, Championship runner-up in 2014, and defending Asphalt Championship co-driver Jack Morton finished 6th on the Isle of Man, their first appearance in this year’s series, in their Legend Fires Fiesta S2500. They’re back for more now as the
season heads towards the halfway point. Meanwhile, David Tinn/Giles Dykes (Proton Satria Neo) and Bob Fowden/Paul Wakely (Impreza WRC) are both lying outside the Top Ten with just one score apiece so far. 2015 Class B13 winner David Hardie and
co-driver John McCulloch, who was 3rd overall in last year’s Championship, had an all-too-brief return on the Manx before their Impreza succumbed to brake problems after only a couple of stages. Hence, they could now do with a result to open their
account in the points.

No15bIn Group N, two strong finishes from Welshman Wynne Watkins see him holding the upper hand in his Impreza, while 2014/5 champions David & Mathew White’s defence of their title got off to shaky start with a DNF on Epynt. However, as we’ve
said, there’s still plenty of scope for change!….

After an absence of a couple of years, Ashley Field returned to the Championship on the Isle of Man in a new Darrian T90 GTR and, for a while during the opening leg, led the event outright in his two-wheel drive car. Subsequently, low oil pressure (or so he
manxnat16-57thought!) caused him to switch the engine off before any major damage occurred. However, further investigation revealed the problem to be a faulty sensor, rather than anything more serious. Oh, poo! No Millington Rear-Wheel Drive Challenge points for
the Mansfield driver, then…. Top honours in this category went to Alistair Inglis’ Lotus Exige on Epynt and the re-engineered Vauxhall Astra of Geoff Glover/Keith Barker on the Manx, and it is these two who top the table at present. Field’s Darrian will be back in action in Ireland where his son, Fred, will also be making his Asphalt Championship debut in a Vauxhall Adam….

On the subject of FWD cars, the AB Motorsport Front-Wheel Drive Challenge is currently the preserve of William Hill/Richard Crozier. Their Fiesta R200 has finished both events it started and, although eclipsed by Paul Clapham (Peugeot 106) on
Epynt and Ian Chadwick’s Honda Civic on the Manx, consistency keeps them in the ascendancy. Richard & Pat Egger (Vauxhall Nova) have also crossed the finish line on both occasions, while David Earthy/Sarah Edwards’ promising start was halted on
the Isle of Man when their Citroen C2R2’s gearbox cried ‘enough’….

West Midlanders Paul Clackett/David Millard (Suzuki Swift) and Jeff Simm/Matthew Daniels (Nissan Sunny) were both beset by mechanical bothers last time, but will view the ALMC Stages as the ideal opportunity to put their seasons back on track.
David & Mathew Smalley (Vauxhall Corsa) and Mathew Roberts (Citroen Saxo) also rejoin the Championship in Ireland.

The first car leaves the start of the ALMC Stages Rally at 9.20am on Sunday 3rd July and, at the completion of a route that includes 75 miles of special stages, the winners are due back at Rally HQ, the Castle Arch Hotel in Trim, Co. Meath, at 5.30pm.

Andrew Haill

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