Yates becomes first British driver to win Rally van Wervik after masterful Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship display

Rhys Yates has become the first British driver to win the Rally van Wervik, after he and co-driver Elliott Edmondson clinched outright victory on Round 3 of the Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship in their Brettex-backed ŠKODA Fabia R5. Wayne Sisson/Max Freeman have taken the lead of the Championship mid-way through the season, after another impressive performance in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X.

Yates was surprised to be leading the Belgian event after the opening stage, but drove well and never had a single moment as four more fastest overall stage times (including the 12th and closing stage) gained him a richly deserved place on the top step of the podium and maximum Championship points.

It was a great event for Carlisle-based CA1 Sport, as Yates’ stable-mate David Bogie took second place in the Asphalt Rally Championship. It was the former British Rally Champion’s first asphalt event for twelve months, but having understandably lost a little bit of time early on, he and co-driver John Rowan were soon into their stride in their Brasswell Developments/Pallet Force Fabia R5 – and eventually finished 1 minute 28.3 seconds behind.

Having finished second on the Bet On Aces Manx National Rally, Daniel Harper bagged another impressive haul of points with third in his Minisport-run John Cooper Works Mini WRC. The event didn’t start well, with an overshoot at a junction, but his confidence returned after first service with he and co-driver Chris Campbell getting quicker and setting some impressive times as the event progressed.

It was a very close battle for the final podium position, with just 10.8 seconds separating third from fifth. A very impressive Belgian rally debut saw Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks take fourth after a textbook performance in their Groundwater Lift Trucks/AMS-backed Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X – the Aberdeen driver finishing just seven seconds behind Harper.

After three excellent results, Wayne Sisson now leads the Asphalt Rally Championship in his AMS Mitsubishi Evo X having finished fifth, just 3.8 seconds behind Groundwater. Also a newcomer to Belgium, he and co-driver Max Freeman followed up their excellent seventh on the opening Melvyn Evans Motorsport Tour of Epynt and third on the Bet On Aces Manx National with fifth in Wervik to take the lead at the top of the points table for the first time.

Adrian Spencer’s RED Industries Subaru Impreza WRC had undergone a major rebuild since the Manx and was now back on song. He and co-driver Matt Daniels took sixth, but only after spectators helped them out of a ditch in the afternoon, which cost them a minute.

Despite hiring a Yokohama-backed Peugeot 208 R2 locally and using a new co-driver in the form of Welshman Yan Griffiths, Jerseyman Ed Fossey did his R2 class title aspirations no harm at all with a magnificent class victory. He finished ahead of Ross Brusby/Hannah McKillop, who made an excellent Championship debut in their Chesterfield Transporters-backed Ford Escort Mk2, while Steve Retchless/Sasha Heriot had a great untroubled run in their rebuilt road-rally Escort Mk2. Richard and Pat Egger also had an excellent run to a top 10 Championship points-scoring result in their Highland Cottage Vauxhall Nova. They were followed home by Mike Pugsley/Stuart Powell (Escort Mk1), Kevin Harbour/Dave Tortoishell (Dovebank Motors Citroen C2R2), Tim and Jack Waters (Renault Clio V6) and Johnnie Mulholland/Jeff Case (Marshall Leasing Fiesta R2).

Jason Pritchard was hitting the rev-limiter in several places, but what concerned the 30-year old driver more was a problem with his North Road Garage Ford Fiesta S2000’s clutch. He was right to be worried, because despite efforts to limit using the clutch, including pushing the car into time controls wherever he could, he and co-driver Phil Clarke’s rally ended before mid-distance.

Damian Cole arrived in Wervik looking for nothing less than maximum points, even though it was almost 20 years since he’d last contested an event in Belgium. However, his Get Connected Ford Fiesta WRC started to misfire a mile into the opening stage and by SS3 the car was running on three cylinders. As the problem couldn’t be fixed on-event, as other crews were preparing to start the afternoon’s loop of stages, Cole and co-driver Jamie Edwards were already on a cross-Channel ferry heading home.

Phil Turner/Ian Meakin were hoping to maintain their magnificent third place overall in the points table, but a suspected broken track control arm saw their Toovey Race Engines/ST Motorsport-backed Escort Mk2 understeer off the road and into a ditch on SS2, ripping the front right wheel clean off.

Paul and Julian Doroszczuk survived an early 100mph 360 degree spin in their Drockspeed Motorsport Escort Mk2, but it was a broken clutch which was to later put them out of the event. Roger Priestnall/Jamie Forrest were all set for another impressive Class B10 win when they put their Proton Satria S1600 into a ditch on the penultimate stage.

Chris Wheeler’s first rally in Belgium ended in incredibly unlucky fashion when he hit a rock that had been pulled out into the middle of the road on the opening stage. The impact broke one of his Citroen DS3 R3T’s rear shock absorbers, putting him and co-driver Shaun Layland out at the end of the test.

Rhys Yates (1st) said: “We didn’t expect to win, not at all. After the first stage Elliott and I were laughing that we’d taken the stage win, because we really couldn’t believe it – and it just went on from there. We were here to get better on asphalt and get better in Belgium, so each stage I just wanted to drive better and be more comfortable. After about stage three or four I thought that if we could keep banging out stages like that, then yes, I thought we could win this. We didn’t have any moments, it all felt comfortable from start to finish, and that’s good for my confidence going forward. We’ll talk to Jane [Evans, Championship Co-ordinator] now and hopefully we can get a few more rounds of the Asphalt Rally Championship in, because I’ve really enjoyed this. It’s been an excellent day.”

David Bogie (2nd) said: “It was good to come to Wervik and get experience of driving on the Belgian roads again. It’s our first asphalt event since last year’s Ypres Rally, and the three kilometre drive to the opening stage was our shakedown! We lost a bit of time early on, but we got through it, we learnt a lot, we tried a lot of different tyres and different set-ups and we’ve got a good result. Rhys drove well to score maximum points in the Asphalt Rally Championship and I’m happy with second, and we’re looking forward to going to the Down Rally to build on that.”

Daniel Harper (3rd) said: “The event started badly for us, but thankfully it’s got better and better as the day’s gone on. We lost about twenty five seconds with an overshoot through the tapes on the opening stage, and probably a total of forty seconds over the first loop of stages as we’d lost confidence and was backing off too much for junctions. Fair play to Rhys and David, they’ve driven very well – and we’ve taken as many Asphalt Rally Championship points as we could have after the start we had!”

The live streaming broadcasts from Rally van Wervik, with commentary from Howard Davies and WRC3 driver Amoury Molle, 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 4 of the Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship is the Carryduff Folklift Down Rally (21 July).

2018 Rally van Wervik – Top 10 Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship finishers
1. Rhys Yates/Elliott Edmondson (ŠKODA Fabia R5)….50mins 15.9secs
2. David Bogie/John Rowan (ŠKODA Fabia R5)….+1m 28.3s
3. Daniel Harper/Chris Campbell (John Cooper Works Mini WRC)….+2m 39.60s
4. Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks (Mitsubishi Evo)….+2m 46.6s
5. Wayne Sisson/Max Freeman (Mitsubishi Evo)….+2m 50.4s
6. Adrian Spencer/Matt Daniels (Subaru Impreza WRC)….+6m 14.9s
7. Ed Fossey/Yan Griffiths (Peugeot 208 R2)….+7m 39.4s
8. Ross Brusby/Hannah McKillop (Ford Escort Mk2)….+8m 12.0s
9. Steve Retchless/Sasha Heriot (Escort Mk2)….+11m 00.7s
10. Richard Egger/Pat Egger (Vauxhall Nova)….+13m 35.3s

Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship – provisional overall driver points after Round 3
1. Wayne Sisson….76pts
2. Jason Pritchard….58pts
3. Daniel Harper….55pts
4. Barry Groundwater….52pts
5. Adrian Spencer….50pts
6. Phil Turner….46pts
7. Ed Fossey….40pts
8. Chris Rice….40pts
9. Steve Retchless….33pts
10. Kevin Harbour….33pts

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