Damian Cole will contest this year’s Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship – with the aim of winning it for a seventh time.
The Abergavenny-based driver won the title five years running (2010-2014 inc.) and again in 2016, which was the last time the series ran. This year Cole will drive his Get Connected Ford Fiesta WRC – a car that began life eight years ago as a M-Sport/Petter Solberg test car – partnered by new co-driver Jamie Edwards. They have sat together once before, when they acted as course car on the opening gravel day of the Nicky Grist Stages last year, in Cole’s road rally spec. Escort.
The Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship title isn’t the only thing Cole will be aiming for. After finishing on the podium four times, he’d love to win the Manx National Rally for the first time – and he’s gunning for John Price’s record of wins on Epynt too. Cole has won an impressive 18 rallies on Epynt (achieved on eight different events), while Price’s long rallying career netted him 23 victories. They share six wins apiece on the Harry Flatters, and Cole is aiming to equal Price’s six wins on this year’s Old Forge Garage Mewla Rally.
With five scores from six counting towards the title, success is not guaranteed – especially as Cole hasn’t competed in Belgium for the best part of 20 years, and Round 3 of the 2018 Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship is the Rally van Wervik in Flanders. To prepare for this, and as a pre-season dress rehearsal with his new co-driver, Cole is going to contest the Boucles Clavieroises on February 18 in his Michelin-shod Fiesta.
Cole said: “We’ll be concentrating on the Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship this year and trying to win it for a seventh time. Reliability will be a big factor this year, with five scores from six rallies to count. Someone winning two or three rallies but non-scoring on a few will be beaten by someone finishing second five times, so it really is all to play for.
“I’ve got unfinished business on the Manx National – having finished third three times and second once, it’s an event I’d dearly love to win. The Down Rally is new, but I’ve done the Ulster and the Circuit of Ireland, so I have an idea of what the stages are like. And then there is Belgium! I’ve done one event in Belgium about eighteen or nineteen years ago, so the Rally van Wervik is going to be a good challenge.
“I’m looking forward to a good Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship with a lot of close competition and rallies won by a handful of seconds. That’s what everyone wants to see, and I think it’s going to be a great season.”
Jane Evans, Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship Co-ordinator, said: “It’s great to see Damian entering the 2018 Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship and making an all-out attack for an incredible seventh title. And we must remember that the overall Championship winning driver and co-driver will receive prestigious BTRDA Gold Stars! The first event of the Championship is fast approaching, and we already have an array of competitors old and new entered from all corners of the UK, which will make it a truly national championship.”