Jason Pritchard powered to a magnificent victory on the penultimate round of the 2018 Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship, the Old Forge Garage Mewla Rally, in his first rally on Epynt in his North Road Garage Ford Focus RS WRC05.
In torrential rain and strong winds, the driver who made the least mistakes was sure to come out on top, and with a super-cool head the 30-year old Builth Wells driver never put a foot wrong – except on the third corner of the opening stage, when he was reminded just how much faster his Focus WRC is, compared to anything else he’s driven on Epynt! Co-driven by Phil Clarke, Pritchard pushed where he needed to and controlled the pace from the front, to score a truly memorable win.
Damian Cole lost 17 seconds on the opening loop of three stages when he began the event with too harder suspension on his Get Connected Ford Fiesta WRC. Equipped with softer springs, times were an awful lot closer from SS4 onwards, as Cole chased his third Mewla Rally win in a row and a record-equally sixth victory. He and co-driver Jamie Edwards pushed as hard as they dare in the slippery conditions, twice almost coming to grief, leaving Cole to sportingly admit he’d been beaten by a better man on the day – albeit by just 26 seconds.
Daniel Harper has kept his title challenge very much alive with a very spirited drive to third in his Minisport-run John Cooper Works Mini WRC. He overshoot a T-junction on SS3 and lost 30 seconds stranded on the soaking wet grass, and then spun on the same corner when the stage was repeated (SS6). Co-driven by Chris Campbell, a stall on the start line of SS7 didn’t help either, and while they finished 1min 49secs behind Cole, it was still a tremendous result at a venue he doesn’t know, in the worst weather it can throw at you.
Melvyn Evans/Mark Glennerster finished an excellent fourth in their first event in a brand new Hyundai i20 R5. There was an obvious power disparity compared to the Subaru Impreza WRC S12b in which they’d won the Melvyn Evans Motorsport Tour of Epynt in, but Evans was extremely impressed with the car’s handling and performance in the technical sections and it showed that a great result can be achieved on an ultra fast venue too.
Wayne Sisson/Max Freeman were pleased to finish behind three World Rally Cars and a state-of-the-art R5 car in their B14 class leading Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10. A demon in wet conditions, Sisson once again made no mistakes and his AMS Arnside Motorsport car never missed a beat either.
Sisson still leads the series, but has a big score to drop – meaning that he must hope that both Pritchard and Harper, who are tied on points in second and who have both dropped a score, hit problems on the final round of the series. If they do, then Sisson will be champion – and if they don’t, then whoever finishes ahead of the other between Pritchard and Harper is likely to become 2018 Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Champion. The drivers’ title is between those three, and it will be an exciting climax on the Ford Parts Cheviot Stages Rally (Sunday 28 October).
Phil Turner/Simon Anthony claimed sixth place points after an excellent drive in their T.C.S. Plant Hire Mitsubishi Evo 9. The extremely wet conditions didn’t suit the powerful rear-wheel drive Millington Series 2+ engined Darrian GTR of Tony Rees/Geraint Thomas, and wanting to take the car to Ireland next weekend made for a more cautious approach, which was rewarded with a seventh placed points finish.
Another class win, their second in two events, has extended Paul and Julian Doroszczuk’s lead in B11. They enjoyed a fantastic run in the wet conditions – catching and overtaking two cars on the long SS7 in their flying normally-aspirated Cosworth-engined Drockspeed Motorsport Escort Mk2. They beat Geoff Glover/Keith Barker to class honours, who also had a trouble-free run in their rear-wheel drive Astra, save for the odd bucket or two of water coming into the car. They were expecting a charge from Phil Turner/Ian Meakin, but their rally ended when they crashed their Toovey Race Engines/ST Motorsport-backed Escort Mk2 on SS7. Richard and Pat Egger didn’t make it to the finish either, an oil pump issue ending their run on SS4 in their Highland Cottage-backed Vauxhall Nova.
James Nicholls/David Allman were giving their newly-built Peugeot 205 GTi its rally debut, but a blown ignition fuse half a mile into the opening stage put them into limp mode for the first loop of three stages. Running well down the order for the rest of the day, they were eventually rewarded with third in B11.
It couldn’t be closer in class B13, with Ross Brusby and Steve Retchless sharing the lead on 42 points. Brusby bounced his Chesterfield Transporters-backed Ford Escort Mk2 off an Epynt bank mid-way through the event, but survived with co-driver Hannah McKillop to come away two points better off than their rival. Retchless had a cautious start, but he and co-driver Sasha Heriot finished in a hurry in their Morris Lubricants/ralloy.com Escort Mk2, to set up another thrilling title class finale.
Rhidian Daniels claimed the class B10 top spot in his Citroen C1 Max, despite the windscreen wipers stopping on SS2. The car’s windscreen kept on misting up too, which resulted in an old fashioned solution – a cloth stuck to the end of a stick, operated by co-driver Tomos Whittle! They finished the event with a cracked exhaust manifold.
Kevin Harbour/David Tortoishell had another excellent run in their Dovebank Motors Citroen C2 R2, and now lead the B10 class by 16 points. Graeme Sherry/Sinclair Young aquaplaned off the road on SS3 and broke a wheel on their Honda Civic, but survived to pick up third in class.
Having thrown a rod on the Rally van Wervik, Lloyd Morgan/Marc Clatworthy found that the new engine in their Spencer Sport/Euro Tech Roofing/Dynamic Fluids-backed Nissan Micra wasn’t as powerful, especially on the longer uphill drags. They are within touching distance of the 1400S title however, after another strong performance.
Mike Pugsley has wrapped up the class B12 title, after a great drive in his Escort Mk1 RS2000. Co-driven by Stuart Powell, the Welshman finished an impressive 35th overall in the 1974 car. R2 champion Ed Fossey also did well on his first full wet asphalt rally, finishing 24th with co-driver Michael Gilbey in his Yokohama-backed Peugeot 208.
One of the star drives came from William Mains/Claire Williams in their little Vauxhall Nova. The west Wales pair had been praying for rain to help them overcome their power disadvantage, and they delivered in the wet and slippery conditions. Despite braking an engine mount on SS7 and going off on the final stage, they won the 1400cc class by miles and finished 11th overall – just missing out on a top 10 position by 41 seconds!
Another extraordinary performance came from Stuart Anderson/Kenny Owen. They’d only met each other the day before the event, and despite an electrical problem on the opening loop they scored maximum championship class H3 points in their Vauxhall Chevette HSR.
John Clayton/Mark Perryman were going extremely well in their JC Motor Services Mitsubishi Evo until a branch pierced the intercooler and they had to do most of the last loop of stages with very little turbo boost, although they did still finish inside the top 20.
Rob Tout/Peredur Davies retired their Wheel Specialists/Enterprise Insurance/Owen Developments/Tout’s Tool and Plant Hire Mitsubishi Evo on SS2, while Marcus Padgett/Rhys Stoneman parked their Nissan Micra Kit Car on SS3.
Jason Pritchard (1st) said: “The conditions were treacherous, especially in the morning, and you had to drive with your head – which is pretty much what we did all day really. We upped our pace when we needed to, when we knew Damian was going to have a push, tried to keep a gap and took no risks. Epynt was definitely different in a World Rally Car. The third corner of the first stage is flat in a Fiesta S2000, but I found it’s not flat in a Focus WRC – so after that I really knew it was a case of feeling my way in! We had an issue with the windscreen misting up on a couple of stages, but apart from that we left the same tyres on all day and refuelled the car and that was all we did.”
Damian Cole (2nd) said: “We’ve had a good day. The conditions were very tricky, probably the worst I’ve ever seen them up on Epynt. We had a few moments – we almost hit the Armco in one place and then some breeze blocks in the German Village – and despite the conditions the pace was very fast, I don’t think I’d want to go much faster! Jason took seventeen seconds out of us on the first three stages and beat us by twenty-six seconds overall, so it was a lot closer from stage four onwards – but he drove very well and we just couldn’t live with his pace today. It would have been nice to win, to make it three Mewla Rally wins in a row, but it wasn’t to be.”
Daniel Harper (3rd) said: “The weather was against us, having never been to Epynt before in a car with that sort of power – and we had a few moments, that’s for sure. It bit us, but we got back on, and then it bit us again and we got back on! The afternoon was much better for us, we set some good times, built up our confidence and it’s gone really well. I’m very pleased with the result and it’s now winner takes all at Otterburn!”
The live streaming broadcasts from the Epynt MC organised Mewla Rally, with commentary from Howard Davies and special guest Bob Fowden, 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.
The sixth and final round of the 2018 Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship is the Ford Parts Cheviot Stages Rally on Otterburn (Sunday 28 October). Entries for the event open on Saturday 1 September at 09.00.
2018 Old Forge Garage Mewla Rally – Top 10 Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship finishers
1. Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke (Ford Focus WRC)….1hr 07mins 29secs
2. Damian Cole/Jamie Edwards (Ford Fiesta WRC)….+26secs
3. Daniel Harper/Chris Campbell (John Cooper Works Mini WRC)….+2mins 15secs
4. Melvyn Evans/Mark Glennerster (Hyundai i20 R5)….+3mins 36secs
5. Wayne Sisson/Max Freeman (Mitsubishi Evo)….+5mins 57secs
6. Philip Turner/Simon Anthony (Mitsubishi Evo)….+6mins 37secs
7. Tony Rees/Geraint Thomas (Darrian GTR)….+7mins 10secs
8. William Mains/Claire Williams (Vauxhall Nova)….+8mins 40secs
9. Rhidian Daniels/Tomos Whittle (Citroen C1 Max)….+9mins 09secs
10. Ross Brusby/Hannah McKillop (Ford Escort Mk2)….+9mins 32secs
Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship – provisional overall driver points after Round 5
1. Wayne Sisson….126pts
2. Jason Pritchard….112pts
3. Daniel Harper….112pts
4. Melvyn Evans….83pts
5. Barry Groundwater….75pts
6. Ed Fossey….72pts
7. Ross Brusby….61pts
8. Steve Retchless….59pts
9. Damian Cole….58pts
10. Paul Doroszczuk….58pts