Jason Pritchard aims to celebrate his 30th birthday by extending his lead in the Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship, as he takes a six-point advantage at the top of the drivers’ standings into the Rally van Wervik (9 June).
Co-driven by Phil Clarke, the Builth Wells driver heads to Round 3 of the series on great form, having won the Bet On Aces Manx National Rally for a fourth time. However, Pritchard is yet to finish a rally in Belgium and his last event there, the 2011 Ypres Rally, ended with him hitting some oil, going off into a ditch and breaking a wrist and collarbone. But with age comes experience, and he’ll be focused on gaining a good haul of Championship points this time out in his North Road Garage Ford Fiesta S2000.
Damian Cole hasn’t had the best of times recently with his Get Connected Ford Fiesta WRC, with handling problems forcing him out of the Manx National. Seventh in the series and with a score dropped and everything all to play for, van Wervik is an important event for the six-time MSA Asphalt Rally Champion – as he and co-driver Jamie Edwards aim for maximum points in Belgium.
There will be three registered Subaru Impreza WRC S11s aiming for a top result in Belgium. After finishing fifth on Epynt, Adrian Spencer/Matt Daniels will be hoping to bounce back after stopping on the Manx with broken suspension in their RED Industries Subaru, Chris Ford/Neil Colman are back in their ex-Chris Atkinson Century Hose-backed Impreza and Brian Watson/Caroline Will travel to Belgium in their Prodrive-built WRC S11.
A fine second place finish on the Isle of Man boosted Daniel Harper’s title aspirations and he and co-driver Chris Campbell take their Minisport-run John Cooper Works Mini WRC to Belgium in search of another podium finish.
David Bogie and Rhys Yates have both registered for the Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship and will contest Rally van Wervik in a pair of CA1 Sport-run ŠKODA Fabia R5s as part of their preparations for the Ypres Rally. They’ll be co-driven by John Rowan and Elliott Edmondson respectively. Lawrence Whyte will also contest the event in his Fiesta R5.
Wayne Sisson will be aiming to build on his earlier round successes when he makes his Belgian rally debut in his rapid AMS Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. Co-driven by Max Freeman, Sisson finished seventh on the opening Tour of Epynt and third on the Manx National to be in second place overall – and, having won his class both times, the Carnforth driver also leads B14. Barry Groundwater also heads to his first Belgian event on the back of a magnificent fifth on the Manx, which has rocketed the Aberdeen driver into the overall top 10 in the drivers’ standings. Co-driven by Neil Shanks, he’ll be back out in his Groundwater Lift Trucks/AMS-backed Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X.
Phil Turner/Ian Meakin are an impressive third overall in the Championship in their Toovey Race Engines/ST Motorsport-backed Escort Mk2, and not surprisingly they are the highest placed two-wheel drive crew and lead class B11 after two maximum scores. Paul and Julian Doroszczuk’s Drockspeed Motorsport Escort Mk2 was using a lot of oil on the Manx, and all being well they’ll be back out in Belgium in their normally-aspirated Cosworth-engined Escort Mk2. Steve Retchless/Sasha Heriot return in their Escort Mk2, while Ross Brusby makes his first Asphalt Rally Championship appearance of the season in his similar car. Graeme Sherry/Sinclair Young were hoping to have their Vauxhall Chevette ready, but are now likely to appear in the same Honda Civic they used on the Manx, while Mike Pugsley/Stuart Powell make a welcome addition to the series in their Escort Mk1.
Roger Priestnall/Jamie Forrest lead Class B10, despite breaking a driveshaft in their Proton Satria S1600 on the Manx. They arrive in Wervik fifth overall in the standings, with more giant-killing ambitions in mind. Tim Waters and his son Jack lead the B13 class, and will be aiming for three out of three strong scores in their magnificent Renault Clio V6.
Reigning BTRDA 1400 Champion Ed Fossey leads the R2 class in his Yokohama-backed Peugeot 208 R2, which is an advantage the Jerseyman will be aiming to extend. He’ll be co-driven this time by Yan Griffiths. Kevin Harbour/Dave Tortoishell are back in their very smart Dovebank Motors Citroen C2R2, as are Adrian Drury/Cat Lund (Peugeot 106 GTI) and James Nicholls/David Allman (Peugeot 205 GTI). Northern Ireland’s Johnnie Mulholland make his first Championship start of the year in his Marshall Leasing-backed Fiesta R2, co-driven by Jeff Case. Meanwhile, Bill Paynter/Andy Hollingham will be aiming to extend their 1400C class lead in their Hilka-backed Peugeot 106 Rallye.
Chris Wheeler’s first rally for two years ended in retirement on the Isle of Man, but the 23-year old Devon driver will be aiming to make amends when he and co-driver Shaun Layland compete in their smart Citroen DS3 R3T. Richard and Pat Egger finished 31st overall and 6th in class on the Manx National in their 1999-built Highland Cottage Vauxhall Nova – a great result on their first rally of 2018. Their most recent experience of Belgium was finishing 40th overall and 4th in class on last year’s Hemicuda Rally, so they’ll be keen on scoring yet another good result in their B11 machine.
Protyre Motorsport will take a large number of tyres to Rally van Wervik, including Pirelli, Michelin, Hoosier, Hankook and Kumho tyres, and operate a full fitting service for all registered Championship contenders.
The Rally of Wervik will be streamed live, with commentary from Howard Davies, on the Special Stage Facebook page, while live radio broadcasts and interviews will be available on rallyfm.net. The live streamed footage will remain on-line for fans to view after the event, while edited highlights of the event will be televised on Motorsport TV, on the Sky/Freesat Front Runner channel, on the Motor Trend On Demand channel and on the Special Stage Facebook, YouTube and App platforms shortly afterwards.
The 44th Rally of Wervik is organised by the Auto club Scuderia Vervica V.Z.W. and is open to a maximum of 150 cars, with the recce, documentation and scrutineering all taking place on Friday (8 June). The first car leaves the start ramp at 08.30 the following day, with 60 stage miles in a compact route that only has 42 road miles. The finish ceremony takes place at ‘De Graankorrel’ in the town of Wervik at 19.30.