Pritchard takes Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship lead after winning Manx National for a fourth time

Jason Pritchard has taken the lead of the Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship after winning the Bet On Aces Manx National Rally for a fourth time in his North Road Garage Ford Focus WRC05.

Co-driven by Phil Clarke, the 29-year old Builth Wells driver led the event from start to finish, setting fastest time on all but one of the 16 stages. He mastered the most difficult Leg 1 conditions – when torrential rain, standing water and poor visibility, followed by a repeat run of four difficult stages in the dark, made Friday night’s stages extremely challenging – and continued his domination by setting fastest time on all of Saturday’s stages in the dry. Victory was also the perfect present for his father and renowned competitor, Eian, who celebrated his 60th birthday on day one of the event!

Daniel Harper/Chris Campbell finished second, 3mins 06.2 secs behind, in what was effectively only their fourth rally in their Minisport-run John Cooper Works Mini WRC. They never put a foot wrong and a very controlled and calculated drive on the extremely wet Leg 1 paid dividends, as they cemented their second place as Leg 2 played out on fast and dry roads.

Wayne Sisson/Max Freeman had a different strategy that also worked well, pushing hard in the worst of the conditions in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X and then maintaining a safe third place. Having finished sixth on the Melvyn Evans Motorsport Tour of Epynt, Sisson has jumped to third in the overall Drivers’ standings.

Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks had a magnificent run in their Groundwater Lift Trucks/AMS-backed Mitsubishi. The Aberdeen driver regretted keeping his wet tyres on for the drying opening loop of Leg 2 stages, but it didn’t cost him any Championship positions as he netted fourth placed points.

Richard Clews/Hamish Campbell were delayed by a slowed Rob Tout on SS2 and were yellow flagged on SS3 – with their nominal time costing the ITG Air Filters Subaru Impreza crew around 30 seconds. They quickly put that behind them and pressed on to record their first points-scoring result of the season in fifth, ahead of Brian Watson/Caroline Will who ended SS1 in 35th position, and who fought back to finish 10th in their Subaru Impreza WRC S11.

A complete lack of grip, suspension setting issues and many massive moments saw Damian Cole in a very uncharacteristic 16th place after SS4. The car’s handling was even worse after service, and after a second wild run through Druidale (SS6) he and co-driver Jamie Edwards called it a day in their Get Connected Ford Fiesta WRC, before the inevitable big accident happened.

Peter Taylor/Andrew Roughead set fastest time on SS6 and were third overnight in their ex-Robert Kubica Border Caravans-backed Fiesta WRC – a performance many had predicted after they’d won both the Carlisle and Tyneside Stages, and finished third on the Rallye National Le Béthunois, last year. However, they were not allowed to start Leg 2 having been adjudged to have received outside assistance.

Bob Fowden/Den Golding made a cautious start in the worst of the weather, completing SS2 in 18th place – but had fought back magnificently to 4th by the overnight halt. They were looking forward to continuing their push on day two, but towards the end of SS10 their Comline Auto Parts/NGK-backed Subaru Impreza WRC S11 caught fire – a broken exhaust manifold creating a blaze that destroyed everything under the bonnet.

Last year’s Manx National winners Hugh Hunter/Rob Flagg were seeded at number one in their Fiesta WRC, but their event came to an early end with electrical problems (IDU) in their Fiesta WRC two miles into SS1.

Having set second fastest time on the opening stage, Jamie Jukes/James Morgan retired their Mitsubishi Mirage R5 after hitting a chicane on SS2 (although they did set some impressive times when they returned under Rally2 restart rules). Their Spencer Sport team-mates Philip Hopkins/Aled Edwards lost four minutes when they spun up a bank on SS4 and had to stop and change the resultant puncture, but then set fifth fastest time on the next test to race home to an excellent 11th overall, scoring a good haul of Championship points which puts them just outside the top 10 in the standings.

Rob Tout recorded his fourth Manx National retirement in five starts after he and co-driver Peredur Davies encountered centre differential problems in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo on SS2 – while ECU problems and a seized turbo forced Stu Bainborough/Jane Nicol into retirement in service after SS4 – which was a huge shame, as they had been sixth after SS1 in their Mitsubishi.

Chris Rice/Charley Sayer-Payne had a good run in their TAS Motorsport Subaru Impreza which, despite running in class B14, is a GpN car with a six-speed gearbox. They finished an excellent 15th overall, elevating Rice to fourth in the overall Drivers’ points table. They finished the Manx one place ahead of Chris Ford/Neil Colman who survived a treacherous opening leg in their ex-Chris Atkinson Century Hose-backed Subaru Impreza WRC S11. Also scoring a good result, and completing the top 20, were John Clayton/Mark Perryman who were contesting their first rally on the Isle of Man since rolling their JC Motor Services Mitsubishi out of last year’s Poker Stars Rally.

After a great run to fifth last time out on Epynt, Adrian Spencer/Matt Daniels retired on SS7 with broken suspension in their RED Industries Subaru Impreza WRC S11. David Hardie/John McCulloch had got up to 5th in class and 11th overall when their TEG Sport Subaru Impreza hit a bank on SS11 and broke a bottom arm – forcing them into retirement at the end of the stage.

Jonathan Turnbull stepped in to replace an injured Chris Sanderson in Geoff Wright’s Booth Construction Fiesta S2000, and were going well until gearbox failure put them out at the start of SS11.

In the battle for two-wheel drive supremacy, Phil Turner/Ian Meakin overcame a misting up windscreen (and a concern about a leaking gearbox) in their Toovey Race Engines/ST Motorsport-backed Escort Mk2 to finish a magnificent 14th overall. This puts Turner a truly giant-killing third in the overall Drivers’ standings and extends his lead of the B11 class after two maximum scores.

A sheared four-link bolt made the Drockspeed Motorsport Escort Mk2’s handling very tail-happy towards the end of Leg 1, but Paul and Julian Doroszczuk survived the night to push on during Leg 2. Having been seeded at 93, they finished an impressive 26th overall to snatch second place in B11 – ahead of Geoff Glover/Keith Barker, who finished well in their rear-wheel drive Astra, despite the car’s rev-counter showing an enthusiastic 13,000rpm, even when the engine was switched off! Tony Shields/Neil Bye finished 22nd overall in their Escort Mk2, while Steve Retchless/Sasha Heriot spun their Escort Mk2 off the road on a narrow and slippery section of SS7 and retired.

In the other class battles, Roger Priestnall/Jamie Forrest extended their B10 lead despite snapping a driveshaft in their Proton Satria S1600 halfway through SS5 and then suffering fuel pump problems before the end of the first day. They were beaten for class victory by an inspired drive from Dai Roberts in a Peugeot 205 GTI. Co-driven by Stephen Christian, the Welshman had to change the clutch at the end of Leg 1, but the wet conditions had helped him climb to an extremely impressive 14th overall by the overnight halt. The following day’s dry and fast conditions didn’t suit the car, but despite breaking a driveshaft and doing the final three stages in one-wheel drive, Roberts won his class and finished 18th overall.

Making his Isle of Man rally debut, Rhidian Daniels/Tomos Whittle were going well in their Citroen, despite a few rear suspension geometry issues which saw the C1 Max float over the bumps. Keeping wet tyres on for dry opening loop of Leg 2 didn’t prevent them finishing a magnificent 24th overall and third in the B10 class, ahead of Kevin Harbour/Dave Tortoishell in their Dovebank Motors Citroen C2R2.

Lloyd Morgan/Marc Clatworthy made their Manx debut in their Euro Tech Roofing/Dynamic Fluids-backed Nissan Micra, finishing a fantastic 19th overall to take the lead of the 1400S class. 1400cc Championship leaders Bill Paynter/Andy Hollingham were thankful SS8 had been shortened as they lost the brakes (thanks to a leaking calliper) on their Hilka Peugeot 106 Rallye on the finish of the stage. They finished 28th overall and scored their second class victory of the season.

Richard and Pat Egger were contesting their first rally of 2018 in their Highland Cottage-backed Vauxhall Nova. They pushed hard right to the finish and were rewarded with 31st overall.

Chris Wheeler/Shaun Layland felt “something give way” on the front of their Citroen DS3 R3T on SS4, and unable to fix the problem in time were forced to retire in service. As their Vauxhall Chevette wasn’t ready, Graeme Sherry/Sinclair Young borrowed a Honda Civic for the event – although an off into a ditch on SS7 saw them continue the next day under Rally2 rules. A broken driveshaft in their Honda Civic at the end of SS8 also saw Mark Booth/Mark Brew have to ‘superrally’.

Tim and Jack Waters completed Leg 1 soaking wet and with their Renault Clio V6 completely full of water. They were more pleased than most to see the sun come out for Leg 2, but a late drama saw them break a rear shock absorber. That didn’t prevent them finishing 34th and taking the class B13 Championship lead.

Michael Farmer/Bruce Lindsay put their Ford Focus off the road on SS12. Marcus Pagett/Rhys Stoneman lost between three and four minutes of SS12 when they broke a driveshaft in their Nissan Micra Kit Car, but held on to score a good finish in the Chris Kelly Memorial Rally section, while John MacNiven/Alexander Graeme retired their two-litre JAM Drilling Subaru Impreza.

Jason Pritchard (1st overall): “It was a pleasure to drive the Focus WRC this weekend, Phil was great on the notes, we had no dramas and we really enjoyed the event. Leg one was the worst conditions I’ve seen in all my years in rallying. There was water running off the fields and onto the roads and being first on the road we were the first to find the worst patches, so it was a real challenge. I’m a little gutted I was playing with the switches on stage six and didn’t set a clean sweep of fastest stage times because of it, but we started day two with a nice lead and managed to extend it without any problems. It’s nice to be leading the Championship after two rounds, but it’s leading at the end of the season that’s important and that’s what we’ll be aiming to do. We’ll take the Fiesta S2000 to Belgium, but we’re not sure what car we’ll do the Down Rally in. I’d like to do more rallies in the Focus WRC – the car’s for sale, but I’m hoping we don’t sell it!”

Daniel Harper (2nd overall): “It’s been a very tough event. If you said before the start that we’d finish second and enjoy a good event, I’d have taken that. The rally was won last night. We had a plan to drive fast when you could see where you were going and slow down when you couldn’t, which is what we did. I have to thank the marshals, because who’d want to stand outside at night in all that wind and torrential rain? It was bad enough in the car! We missed the opening round of the Championship because of illness, but we’re up and running now and looking forward to Belgium.”

Wayne Sisson (3rd overall): “We did all the hard work in the rain on Friday night and held onto our position in the dry on day two. Leg one was the hardest day of asphalt rallying I have ever done – to do those stages once was a challenge, and then we had to go back out and do them again in the dark. We pushed as hard as we could in the worst of the conditions and it paid off. The car’s been perfect, we’ve put fuel in and tyres on and it’s taken us to our second good result in the Championship. Now we’ll have to see how we get on in Belgium.”

The live streaming broadcasts from the Manx National, with commentary from Howard Davies, will remain on-line for viewing on the Special Stage Facebook page. Edited highlights will be broadcast on Motorsport TV, on Front Runner and on the Motor Trend On Demand channel, as well as the Special Stage Facebook, YouTube and App platforms, in due course – please check TV guides for details.

Round 3 of the Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship is the Rally van Wervik (June 8-9).

2018 Bet on Aces Manx National Rally – Top 10 overall finishers

  1. Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke (Ford Focus WRC05)….1hr 45mins 08.9secs
  2. Daniel Harper/Chris Campbell (John Cooper Works Mini WRC)….+3m 06.2s
  3. Wayne Sisson/Max Freeman (Mitsubishi Evo)….+8m 41.3s
  4. Paul Kirtley/David Jones (Subaru Impreza)….+9m 48.3s
  5. Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks (Mitsubishi Evo)….+10m 39.7s
  6. Donnie Macdonald/Michael Hendry (Mitsubishi Evo)….+12m 03.0s
  7. John Indri/Mathew Smalley (Mitsubishi Mirage R5)….+12m 50.3s
  8. Richard Clews/Hamish Campbell (Subaru Impreza)….+13m 19.0s
  9. Carine Walker/Dannii Matthews (BMW 325)….+14m 32.5s
  10. Brian Watson/Caroline Will (Subaru Impreza WRC S11)….+15m 24.0s

Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship – overall driver points after Round 2

  1. Jason Pritchard….57pts
  2. Wayne Sisson….51pts
  3. Phil Turner….45pts
  4. Chris Rice….40pts
  5. Roger Priestnall….31pts
  6. Melvyn Evans….30pts
  7. Damian Cole….29pts
  8. Daniel Harper….28pts
  9. Steve Simpson….26pts
  10. Barry Groundwater….26pts

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