Melvyn Evans won the opening round of the 2018 Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship, the Port Talbot MC-organised Melvyn Evans Motorsport Tour of Epynt (11 March), in his Subaru Impreza WRC S12b.
It has been two years since the 53-year old Lampeter driver had driven the car, and six years since he last rallied it on Epynt, yet he and co-driver Mark Glennerster were quickly into their stride. The key to their success was a big push over the infamous Burma Road – a very tricky and technical section where bravery and precision can reap its rewards. And so it proved, as Evans inched ahead of the opposition to win the 74 stage mile event by 39 seconds.
Damian Cole had set equal fastest time with Evans on the opening two stages in his Get Connected Ford Fiesta WRC, despite ripping the handbrake out of the floor! Co-driven by Jamie Edwards, the six-time MSA Asphalt Rally Champion never put a foot wrong in the damp and greasy conditions and got his Championship assault off to a great start with a very strong run to second.
Jason Pritchard spun his North Road Garage Ford Fiesta S2000 at the first junction on the opening stage, losing a few precious seconds at the Llandeilo’r Fân Triangle, before continuing through the very damp first loop of stages with understeer. Despite very little seat time in the car, and the S2000 being considerably less powerful than the World Rally Cars around him, Pritchard and co-driver Phil Clarke set a remarkable pace – even setting fastest time on the seventh and final stage when the rain returned – to finish an excellent third overall.
Last year’s Tour of Epynt winner and number one seed Bob Fowden was going well in his Comline Auto Parts/NGK-backed Subaru Impreza WRC S11. Co-driven by Aled Davies, he was third (only 16 seconds behind Evans and five seconds behind Cole) when he slipped off the road on a particularly greasy corner near the end of SS5. Beached, he was unable to get back onto the road.
A late change of car saw Steve Simpson/Patrick Walsh contest the event in a CA1 Sport Fiesta RS, and an excellent run saw them finish fourth. Adrian Spencer/Matt Daniels lost time with early gearshift issues, a spin on SS1, an off onto the grass on SS3 and a big moment on the approach to Four Ways Bridge on SS4. They recovered and closed the gap to Simpson to just 13 seconds by the end of the final stage, with the Subaru Impreza crew coming home fifth to bag a good set of Championship points.
Wayne Sisson/Max Freeman won their class and finished an impressive seventh overall in their immaculate Mitsubishi Evo. Less fortunate were Evo drivers Philip Turner/Simon Anthony who retired their Mitsubishi with clutch failure on SS5 and Rob Tout/Peredur Davies who stopped on the penultimate stage – both whilst holding top seven positions and battling for the class lead. Chris Marshall/Simon Hunter crashed their Evo on SS5, Paul James/Derek Davies were forced to stop their Evo when the driver became unwell and Richard Clews/Hamish Campbell retired their ITG Air Filters Subaru Impreza in service after SS4, with a down on power engine problem.
Huw Reed/Anthony Hackett hit their pre-event target of finishing as top two-wheel drive Championship contenders, which was no mean feat in the damp and greasy conditions in their 2.5-litre Millington Series 2-engined Darrian T90 GTR. Tony Rees/Geraint Thomas finished 15th in their similar car, in what was only their second ever rally in it. The throttle jammed open on two stages, but they survived the slippery conditions to get their season off to a fine Championship points-scoring start.
Phil Turner/Ian Meakin were top Championship Escort Mk2 contenders home with a magnificent 11th place finish – ahead of Richard Slinger/Phil Sandham, who were doing only their third rally in their Mk2. It was the first time on Epynt for the highly experienced Steve Retchless and, together with Sasha Heriot, he recorded a good finish – as did Paul and Julian Doroszczuk in their immaculately home-built normally-aspirated Cosworth-engined Escort Mk2.
On their first rally for nine months, Mike Williams/Ken Bills finished a magnificent 12th in their MG ZR 160, Tom Barber/Jaime Barber won the battle of the BMWs, coming home 16th in a Compact, while Double N4 class champions Chris Rice/Craig Cameron scored a top 20 finish in their Subaru Impreza. Geoff Wright/Chris Sanderson last contested the Asphalt Rally Championship in a Group N Nissan Almera, so they did well to survive the hazards of Epynt to record a finish upon their return to the series in a Fiesta S2000. John Macniven/Alex Kermode spun their Subaru Impreza on SS5, but their Epynt debut was rewarded with a good finish. In his 20th year of contesting the Asphalt Rally Championship, Geoff Glover got his season off to a points-scoring start in his rear-wheel drive Astra. Co-driven by Keith Barker, Glover had to take it fairly easy, however, as he hadn’t had time to shakedown the brand new engine before the rally started. It was also a successful points-scoring mission for Gareth James/Ryan Jones in their Peugeot 205GTI.
Edd Fossey’s journey from Jersey was rewarded with a Championship class win in his new Peugeot 208 R2, the 19-year old reigning BTRDA 1400 Champion quickly getting used to the car with Chris Sharpe-Simkiss on the notes. They finished ahead of Roger Priestnall/Jamie Forrest (Proton Satria S16) and Darren Pool/Christopher Beer (Vauxhall Corsa). Mark Booth/Pauline Merrills reached the finish in their Honda Civic, despite spinning off the road on SS2 and getting stuck for three minutes and then losing two minutes with a misfire on SS3/4.
Bill Paynter/Andy Hollingham took Championship honours in the 1400 class in their Peugeot 106 Rallye. Oliver Bell/Sam Johnson retired their Nissan Micra on the opening stage, Lloyd Morgan/Marc Clatworthy were forced to retire their Nissan Micra when a HT lead snapped before SS4 and Rhidian Daniels/Tomos Whittle also failed to finish in their Citroen C1 Max. Will Mains/Sion Jones were leading their class by almost four minutes when their rapid Vauxhall Nova stopped with alternator failure after SS6.
Nigel Feeney/Sean Donnelly were worried about a vibration in their Mini John Cooper Works Mini WRC before the start – and their fears were correct when clutch failure put them out after SS2. The Spencer Sport Mitsubishi Mirage R5 of Jamie Jukes/James Morgan was inside the top 10 before they were forced out after a big moment on SS2, while the sister car of Philip Hopkins/Aled Edwards was battling for sixth when they went off the road and retired on the final stage.
Melvyn Evans (1st overall): “It’s been six years since I last drove this Subaru Impreza WRC on Epynt – we were car number three on the Tour of Epynt in 2012 and won, and this year we were car number three and we won again, so we’ll have to be car number three more often! We started off sensibly to see what our pace was like – the pace was there, so we had a push on the Burma Road on the middle loop and found that was the place we could take a bit of time out of Damian. There are lots of fast places on Epynt where it’s very difficult to make any time, so we were really fast and precise in the tricky sections and that’s what made the difference and paid dividends. All the drivers have gone well today. It’s been slippery and greasy, tyre choice has been very difficult, but it’s been a fantastic battle all the way to the finish.”
Damian Cole (2nd overall): “It’s always nice to win, but I’ve only won the Tour of Epynt once before and lost count of the times I’ve been second here and it’s bridesmaid again today! I said before the start that Melvyn was the one to watch and he’s proved the case and has been very fast all day. We matched him on the first two stages, but then he put his foot down a little bit and pulled away from us. We went quite well. We may have had the wrong tyres on for one loop, but apart from that everything went well and the car was good. We’re looking forward to the Isle of Man now. I’ve been third there three times and second once – so we’ll be trying on the Manx to score the one podium result that’s so far eluded us.”
Jason Pritchard (3rd overall): “I haven’t driven the Fiesta S2000 very much at all, and every mile in the car we do we’re improving. The car hasn’t got the grunt of a World Rally Car, and on the long uphill sections of the New Road, and accelerating out of tight junctions, we were obviously losing a bit of time. But we were fastest in the rain on the final stage so, had it been wet throughout the day, maybe we could have been a bit closer to challenging for the win. We’ll use the Focus WRC on the Isle of Man – we’ve won the event three times in a row and last year we set fastest time on every stage bar one in the car, so we’re already looking forward to round two.”
The Tour of Epynt was broadcast live on the Special Stage Facebook page, with well in excess of 100,000 views for the web streaming service. The footage, with commentary from Howard Davies, will remain on-line for viewing. Details regarding the transmission times for the television programmes will be issued on the Asphalt Rally Championship website and Facebook page.
It was a successful event for Protyre Motorsport, which took over 1,100 Pirelli, Michelin, Hoosier and Hankook motorsport tyres to the event – with almost every registered Championship competitor taking advantage of the tyre selection and fitting service in the changeable weather conditions.
Round 2 of the Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship is the Bet on Aces Manx National Rally (May 11-12).
2018 Melvyn Evans Motorsport Tour of Epynt – Top 10 overall finishers
- Melvyn Evans/Mark Glennerster (Subaru Impreza WRC)….1h04m58s
- Damian Cole/Jamie Edwards (Ford Fiesta WRC)….+39s
- Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke (Ford Fiesta S2000)….+1m46s
- Steve Simpson/Patrick Walsh (Ford Fiesta RS)….+3m23s
- Adrian Spencer/Matt Daniels (Subaru Impreza WRC)….+3m36s
- Paul Kirtley/David Jones (Subaru Impreza)….+4m36s
- Wayne Sisson/Max Freeman (Mitsubishi Evo)….+5m08s
- Gareth James/Steffan Evans (Ford Escort Mk2)….+5m09s
- Huw Reed/Anthony Hackett (Darrian T90 GTR)….+5m25s
- Richard Merriman/Kath Curzon (Darrian T90)….+5m26s
Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship – overall driver points after Round 1:
- Melvyn Evans….30pts
- Damian Cole….28pts
- Jason Pritchard….27pts
- Steve Simpson….26pts
- Adrian Spencer….25pts
- Wayne Sisson….24pts
- Huw Reed….23pts
- Phil Turner….22pts
- Mike Williams….21pts
- Tony Rees….20pts