Bristol brothers Oli and Philip Hopkins will contest this year’s Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship in a pair of powerful Mitsubishi rally cars.
Both were in action last weekend on the Donington Rally, using the circuit event as a shakedown ahead of this Sunday’s Rallynuts National Tour of Epynt.
For Oli, it was only his third event in the Hopkins Motorsport-owned R5-spec Mirage, having driven it on last year’s Fairfield Merlin Stages Rally at Pembrey and the PokerStars Rally on the Isle of Man.
Donington is exceptionally slippery in the wet, thanks to it neighbouring East Midlands Airport, and the aviation fuel polished asphalt caught Oli out on the opening stage – when he caught the car ahead and ended up in a gravel trap after missing his braking. After that, he set some extremely good stage times, as he and co-driver Ian Taylor experimented with set-up ahead of Epynt – where they have been seeded at car number 23.
Philip will drive the Hopkins Motorsport-owned Mitsubishi Evo6, which has been rebuild from a bare shell up by MacWhirter Motorsport. The former British Formula 3 racer finished ninth at Donington, on what was the car’s first outing for almost two years (the last event being the 2017 Tour of Epynt). The Evo6 will run with a new sequential shift gearbox on the Tour of Epynt, with Aled Edwards co-driving for Philip in car number 21.
Owing to a busy work schedule at their in-demand family-run Hopkins Motorsport (builders of bespoke race transporters, hospitality and exhibition vehicles) business, Spencer Sport will run Oli’s Mirage on Epynt this weekend, while MacWhirter Motorsport will run Philip’s Evo6 – ensuring no team orders will be given or listened too!
“Both Philip and I have registered for the Asphalt Rally Championship and we are really looking forward to the season ahead,” said Oli.
“Last year was a little quiet rally-wise, as both Philip and I became fathers, but now, work and family permitting, we hope to be back out on the stages a lot more. The Evo6 has been taken back to a bare shell and completely rebuilt, so it’s as good as new, while I’m going to move over to the Mirage. I’ve only ever driven it three times, the first time was at Pembrey last year when Philip co-drove for me, which was the first time in four years that we’ve sat next to each other in a rally car. It was good to have him there to give me advice, as the Mirage is very different to drive compared to the Evo.
“Epynt will be a completely different challenge this weekend. The plan is to feel my way in and to not make any early mistakes – the thing with Epynt is that you might think you know where you are, when in fact you’re two miles away! The aim is to mingle with the other R5-spec cars, and we’re both hoping for a strong start to the season.”
Oli and Philip are supported by Hopkins Motorsport, HMS Rentals and P+O Engineering Services, and both the Mirage and Evo6 will run on Michelin tyres.