Wayne Sisson takes a slender 16 point advantage into the penultimate round of the 2018 Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship, the Old Forge Garage Mewla Rally (Sunday 26 August), as he prepares to defend his lead from a chasing pack of rivals who are snapping at his heels.
Co-driven by Max Freeman, the AMS Arnside Motorsport Mitsubishi Lancer Evo driver hasn’t put a foot wrong all season and has scored well on all four previous rounds. If the mandatory one dropped score was taken into account now, however, both Daniel Harper and Jason Pritchard would be ahead of Sisson – meaning that the climax to the series is poised to be a thrilling and close encounter.
Harper is enjoying a great run of form and is second in the drivers’ standings in his Minisport-run John Cooper Works Mini WRC. He’s proved that he can quickly adapt to new events, but having never been to Epynt before (he’s already dropped a score after missing the Melvyn Evans Motorsport Tour of Epynt due to illness), he and co-driver Chris Campbell will have a battle on their hands against those who know the blind crests and deceptive curves of the military ranges well.
Third-palced Pritchard is no stranger to Epynt, and in a push for the title he will use his North Road Garage Ford Focus WRC there for the very first time. He and co-driver Phil Clarke didn’t have such a trouble-free run last time out on the Carryduff Folklift Down Rally, with punctures and spins costing them valuable time, so they’ll be hoping to get back to their Bet On Aces Manx National Rally winning ways.
Barry Groundwater/Neil Shanks are aiming to continue their excellent season their Groundwater Lift Trucks/AMS-backed Mitsubishi Lancer Evo. Having missed the Tour of Epynt and therefore already dropped a score, they are free to keep adding to their final points tally, making them serious overall title contenders.
Few expected that finishing second on the Tour of Epynt would be Damian Cole’s Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship highlight two-thirds of the way through the series. The six-time MSA Asphalt Rally Champion has suffered all sorts of unexpected problems with his Get Connected Ford Fiesta WRC, although last time out in the car on the Harry Flatters he won his 20th rally on Epynt and secured a record-breaking seventh King of Epynt Challenge title. Co-driven by Jamie Edwards, Cole will be out to show what could have been, as he aims for nothing less than victory – which, if successful, will equal John Price’s record on six Mewla Rally wins.
With several rallies now under their belt in a new Darrian GTR, Tony Rees/Geraint Thomas will be aiming for a good result in their powerful Millington Series 2+ engined car. Chris Rice had been as high as fourth in the overall drivers’ points table after the first two rounds, and returns to the series with co-driver Craig Cameron in their TAS Motorsport class B14 Subaru Impreza. Former Welsh Tarmac Rally Champion Rob Tout also returns in his The Wheel Specialists/Enterprise Insurance/Owen Developments/Tout’s Tool and Plant Hire Mitsubishi Evo, co-driven by Peredur Davies.
The Doroszczuk brothers, Paul and Julian, took the lead of the B11 class in Northern Ireland in their normally-aspirated Cosworth-engined Drockspeed Motorsport Escort Mk2. Close behind are Geoff Glover/Keith Barker in their rapid rear-wheel drive Astra, and they’ll both be looking over their shoulders at third-placed Phil Turner/Ian Meakin, who return after crashing in Belgium and missing the Down Rally in their Toovey Race Engines/ST Motorsport-backed Escort Mk2. Punching above their weight are Richard and Pat Egger – fourth in class in their self-prepared Highland Cottage-backed Vauxhall Nova and eager to recorded a good result after engine issues last time out.
Despite competing in two very different types of car, Tim Waters and Steve Retchless are tied for the B13 class lead. As their title battle resumes, Tim will be co-driven by his son Jack in their Renault Clio V6, while Retchless will have Sasha Heriot beside him in his Morris Lubricants/ralloy.com Escort Mk2.
Mike Pugsley returns to Epynt in his beautiful 1974 Escort Mk1 RS2000 and, this time co-driven by Stuart Powell, is hoping to wrap up the Class B12 title. It’s a similar situation for Lloyd Morgan/Marc Clatworthy, who are within sight of clinching the 1400S title in their Spencer Sport/Euro Tech Roofing/Dynamic Fluids-backed Nissan Micra.
Jerseyman Ed Fossey has already secured the R2 title, and he will be out to gain more experience in his Yokohama-backed Peugeot 208, while west Wales duo Rhidian Daniels/Tomos Whittle have a great chance of making a bid for the Class 10 title in their Citroen C1 Max.
Others to look out for include Olli Hopkins/Ian Taylor (Hopkins Motorsport Mitsubishi Evo), Graeme Sherry/Sinclair Young (Honda Civic), Will Mains/Claire Williams (Vauxhall Nova), Stuart Anderson/Kenny Owen (Vauxhall Chevette HSR), Marcus Padgett/Rhys Stoneman (Nissan Micra Kit Car), John Clayton/Mark Perryman (Mitsubishi Evo) and Graham Hollis/Alan Jones (Escort Mk2).
Protyre Motorsport will take a large number of tyres to the Mewla Rally, including Pirelli, Michelin and Hoosier, and operate an on-event fitting service for all registered Championship contenders.
The Mewla Rally will be streamed live, with commentary from Howard Davies and guest co-presenter Bob Fowden, 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.
Organised by Epynt MC, this year’s Old Forge Garage Mewla Rally celebrates its 40th anniversary. Based at the Royal Welsh Showground in Llanelwedd, scrutineering and documentation will take place on Saturday 25 August, with 13 stages covering 75 stage miles held on the nearby Epynt military range on Sunday 26 August.