Nobody was more surprised that Phil Turner when he finished the Melvyn Evans Motorsport Tour of Epynt in a magnificent 11th place overall, after a major winter rebuild had made his Escort Mk2 “feel like someone else’s car” for over half the event. But the transformation for SS5 saw him fly over the final three stages and see him come home leading the B11 Class and be eighth in the overall drivers’ points table after the opening round of the 2018 Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship.
The 54-year old Welshpool driver’s Rikki Lloyd/ST Motorsport/JD Tyres-backed Escort Mk2 had undergone a complete rebuild since last season, with different suspension, a new floor mounted pedal box and a different seating position all making it feel very alien at the start of the Tour of Epynt. There was certainly enough power coming from the Toovey Race Engines 2-litre Vauxhall unit, but early suspension adjustments only made the handling worse – until a breakthrough transformed the car for SS5.
Together with co-driver Ian Meakin, ex-road rally ace Turner was now able to put his knowledge of Epynt to good use – recovering to finish just one second away from a top 10 result, after a magnificent push over the closing stages.
Turner will contest the Bet on Aces Manx National Rally (May 11-12) in the car, and he’s eager to start Round 2 at the same pace he finished the Tour of Epynt.
“Despite having six months to rebuild the car, we left it and left it until it ended up being a bit of a rush to get it ready for the Tour of Epynt,” says Phil. “With everything so new and no testing beforehand, it felt like someone else’s car. The main problem was the new suspension. The car felt atrocious. It was understeering, oversteering, four-wheel sliding and we couldn’t get the brake bias right either. We’d pretty much decided to continue the event as a test, but then we made some more adjustments before stage five and it was like day and night – the transformation was unbelievable. We put wet tyres on for the final stage and pushed hard, and came to within one second of a top ten result.
“That’s given us a bit more confidence heading to the Manx National. That event is going to be a lot of new challenge. I’ve been rallying on Epynt for twenty-five years and know my way around, so I’ll have to listen to the pace notes on the Isle of Man for a start! And doing night stages on pace notes – that’s going to be the biggest challenge of all.”