Indeed, it was exactly twelve months ago on the Tyneside Stages that Cole’s Fiesta, which replaced his multiple Championship-winning Focus WRC, was first seen on a round of the ARC. On that occasion, it took runner-up spot, just a handful of seconds behind the winners. Cole, himself, last won the event in 2013 and would dearly love to add to his tally of victories as he seeks to claim a sixth Asphalt Championship title.
Missing from the line-up last year, but currently enjoying an excellent run of form, Steve Simpson/Patrick Walsh (Subaru Impreza WRC) start right behind Cole. Work commitments forced them to forego the trip to the Manx National Rally in May, but maximum points on both the Championship rounds they have contested so far could put them in a strong position once dropped scores come into play later in the year.
David Tinn was 4th on the 2015 Tyneside Stages in his MEM Proton Satria Neo and, with Ian Windress taking the place of regular – but unavailable! – co-driver Giles Dykes, they will be hoping for a Top Three finish. Not to put too fine a point on it, David Hardie/John McCulloch’s season has been slow getting off the ground. An absence from the opening round was followed by an early retirement on from the second, but their performance last time out on the ALMC Stages, when their Impreza finished ahead of David Tinn’s Proton & John Stone’s Fiesta, should give them grounds for optimism that the best is yet to come.
Having taken 7th overall on both the Tour of Epynt & Manx Rallies, Richard Clews/ Carl Williamson (Impreza) return to the Asphalt Championship on Tyneside as they strive to keep the momentum going. They narrowly missed out on a Top Ten finish in 2015, but are well-placed to improve on that, while Richard & Ben Slinger also have ‘form’ on Otterburn in their Lancer EVO6 – they were 9th last time.
Having initially placed an entry, Wynne Watkins has had to withdraw for business reasons, leaving the Group N battle to be fought out between the Impreza of David & Mathew White and Oliver Hopkins’ Lancer EVO9. Meanwhile, having last been out on his ‘home’ event, Manxman Stu Bainborough (Lancer EVO6) will be another chasing B13 points – and the end-of-season ‘Kwiktrak’ awards for the class winners.
ALMC Stages will prove to be a worthwhile investment!… Viewing their trip to Ireland from an entirely different perspective, Paul Clackett/David Millard (Suzuki Swift S1600) had an excellent run, to the point that a similar performance this time would do wonders for both their class and FWD aspirations!
Geoff Glover/Keith Barker will be chasing Millington Rear-Wheel Drive Challenge points in their re-engineered Vauxhall Astra and, in a similar vein to the FWD Challenge, a different crew has come out on top on each occasion so far. Another ‘win’ for Geoff & Keith would, no doubt, be welcomed with grateful thanks!
Richard Milbank/Lee Bezuidenhout lead the 1400cc contingent in their Vauxhall Corsa, but must keep a wary eye out for the similar car of David & Mathew Smalley and the Nissan Micra of Ian & Mags Kelly whose trip across the Otterburn Ranges this time last year was brought to a premature halt by an off-road excursion!
Once again, the Tyneside Stages is the second asphalt round of the BTRDA Rally Challenge® which features a mixed-surface calendar of events taken from the MSA Asphalt Championship and the BTRDA Rally Series.
The Top Five drivers are all present on Otterburn and, following the previous outing on the recent Nicky Grist Stages, Stephen Petch (Fiesta R5+) leads the charge, while Richard Crozier is leading co-driver. However, Steve Simpson/Patrick Walsh, Thomas Preston and 2015 MSA Asphalt Champion Co-driver Jack Morton (Skoda Fabia R5), George Morrison/Jon Quintrell (MG ZR) and Julian Barnett/Sasha Heriot (Impreza) will all be trying their utmost to make life difficult for one another – in the nicest possible way, of course!…
The organisers of the Tyneside Stages Rally, Alnwick & District and Berwick & District Motor Clubs, have received a near-capacity entry of 85 cars for their event, the first of which will leave the start at 8.31am on Sunday 7th August. Having completed 12 special stages, totalling in excess of 60 miles, crews begin arriving at the finish from 5.30pm.
Further information on the 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