Jason Pritchard extends Championship lead after record-equalling fifth Manx National victory

Jason Pritchard has extended his lead in the Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship after taking maximum points on both days of the double-header Masterpixel Media Manx National Rally – with his latest win on the Isle of Man equalling Kenny McKinstry’s five event victories.

The Builth Wells driver had opened up a 57 second lead after a slippery points-scoring first eight stages on Friday, and had to do it all again if he was to score another maximum points haul on eight dry and fast stages on Saturday. After a faultless first day, Pritchard lost time when his North Road Garage Ford Focus WRC05’s launch system failed on SS10 and then he left his braking a little bit too late for a corner on SS11, locked up and stalled the engine. His gave his rivals a glimmer of hope, until he and co-driver Phil Clarke put their foot down in order to regain lost time and ensure another incredible victory on the Manx Auto Sport-organised event.

The Manx roads are a favourite for Jamie Jukes, and he jumped at the chance to come and test the Mitsubishi Mirage for the Spencer Sport team. Together with James Morgan, Jukes picked up points for second place on Friday and fourth on Saturday, and was equally as pleased with the development work they’d achieved. Making set-up changes before most stages didn’t always work, one contributed to a spin on Saturday for example, but most did, as they demonstrated what a fantastic car the Mirage is with some stunning times and the overall runners-up position. Which, given the number of World Rally Cars on the event, was an impressive achievement.

Hugh Hunter/Rob Fagg picked up fourth placed points on Friday night. When their ex-François Duval Focus WRC05 was going well, they were flying – but that was far from the case most of the time. A multitude of problems, including steering issues, a long brake pedal, stalling at a hairpin, problems with the light pod and then hitting a kerb hard cost them over four minutes on Friday, so scoring 26 points was just reward for their perseverance. Saturday started almost as badly, with more brake problems, and a stall and one minute lost on the opening stage of the day. But thereafter the Ruthin driver flew, with the set-up changes made to his P+R Benn-prepared ex-works Ford helping him set three fastest stage times as he climbed back to fourth overall – and scoring second placed points on Saturday’s Round 3.

Alan Kirkaldy/Cameron Fair dominated the R5 category on both days. The St Andrew’s pilot knew he’d be caught on Saturday by Hunter, as the faster stages weren’t so suited to his Cairnsmill Caravan Park Fiesta R5, but two third place finishes gave him a total of 54 points over the weekend, moving Kirkaldy into second in the overall drivers’ points table.

Neither of his R5 rivals reached the finish. Chris Ford/Neil Coleman had swapped their Century Hose-backed Subaru Impreza WRC S11 for a Fiesta R5, and in very tricky conditions had quickly got used to the new machine on Friday night. Unfortunately a broken exhaust put them out on Saturday.

David Hardie/John McCulloch continue to get used to their left-hand drive Fiesta R5, and survived Friday despite the car bottoming out and struggling through SS7 and 8 with no main beam. They looked destined for a good finish, before rolling near the start of the penultimate stage. A few miles further along, Jody Bowcott/David Millard also rolled their Proton Satria S2500, blocking SS15 as their Garden Exteriors-backed car was left stranded upside down on a narrow section of road.

Damian Cole had launch system issues with his Get Connected/Energizer-backed Ford Focus WRC05, which after a long delay getting away from SS2 saw him down in 16th place overall. A change of clutch at halfway service didn’t cure the problem, but he and new co-driver Max Freeman pushed on and had climbed up to seventh overall by the end of the night – collecting points for fifth. The fault was traced to a sensor on the clutch pedal, and once that was put right Cole was able to get cleanly off the start line – eventually finishing seventh overall and more points for another fifth place, which sees him hold a strong third in the drivers’ series.

Wayne Sisson/Neil Shanks scored sixth place points on Friday night in their AMS Arnside Motorsport Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10. Two spins and an overshoot on the second loop cost them places, as they finished the first day just 0.3 seconds behind Cole and 13 seconds behind Hunter. The B14 class car doesn’t ride the bumps and jumps as well as the World Rally Cars and modern R5 machines, but Sisson drove brilliantly to finish eighth overall.

Bob Fowden/Den Golding had a troubled run on Friday night, starting with intercom issues on the first loop and then a more serious mysterious problem with their Subaru Impreza WRC S11 not warming up to full operating temperature and running significantly down on power. It left them in 15th place overall after day one, although Saturday was much better – if not perfect, as the power steering was playing up under severe braking. They were first on the scene of Bowcott’s accident and stopped to warm others of the danger and having been giving a notional time they finished 11th overall.

John Stone was having a magnificent run in his ex-Mikko Hirvonen Fiesta WRC, despite hitting a sheep on SS4. However, turbo problems with his Legend Fires-backed machine saw him and co-driver Jack Morton park up by Little London, and they didn’t restart on Saturday.

Oli Hopkins/Ian Taylor hit a bank on SS2 and then landed their Hopkins Motorsport-owned Mitsubishi Mirage on its nose on SS3. Having initially wrestled with the car and the conditions, everything clicked halfway through SS8 and they had moved up to sixth in the overall points table after Friday’s stages were completed. After a fantastic start to Saturday, they drifted wide and clipped a kerb on SS11 – which cost them over five minutes, as they had to change a wheel and make emergency repairs. They still finished 22nd overall and picked up more valuable points.

John Indri/Matthew Smalley arrived into service after SS4 with smoke signalling a second turbo issue in as many rounds in their Mitsubishi Mirage. They didn’t return, but instead lost no time in trying to get to the bottom of the problem.

On their first appearance in the Asphalt Rally Championship since 2014, Darren Atkinson/Phil Sandham scored maximum B13 class points on Friday, finishing day one a fantastic 10th overall in their Atkinsons Sandblasting/Dennison Trailers Escort Mk2. They continued their brilliant run on Saturday, finishing eighth overall and sixth in the points table to now lead B13.

Mark Jasper had a lot of “niggling problems” on Friday night in his Smith & Jones 2.5-litre engined Escort Mk2, although the master baker from Stafford still collected second place B13 class points. Together with Don Whyatt, they went out to give it a good go on Saturday, but retired when problems continued.

John MacNiven was aiming for a good run in his two-litre JAM Drilling Subaru Impreza, but the car picked up a severe misfire early on Friday, with a loose connection on the coil pack putting it onto three cylinders. They fixed the problem at first service, but attempting to top up the new gearbox with oil saw him go OTL. Together with co-driver Graeme Kermode, the Oban driver returned on Saturday, but retired with, would you believe it, gearbox problems.

Tim and Jack Waters were forced to park their V6-engined Renault Sport Clio by the side of SS3 when the fly-by-wire throttle system failed. To make matters worse, last year’s B14 runners-up were stuck in the stage until 1am before the roads were re-opened and their service crew could come and rescue them. They were on a ferry home eight hours after that.

Despite losing the brakes for three stages (SS6-8), costing two seconds per mile, Jonathan Stepney won the B12 class on Friday night by six and a half minutes in his self-built, Motorhome Services Scotland-backed, 1.9-litre engined Peugeot 205 GTi. Co-driven by the vastly experienced Aled Davies, the Perth-based driver continued his faultless drive to the finish, to win his class again on Saturday.

Defending B12 champion Mike Pugsley survived a big moment on SS7 when he hit a patch of standing water at speed in his 1974 Escort Mk1 RS2000. His road rally experience came to good use, maybe a little too good as he kept catching the car ahead of him in the dark, to finish day one in a strong position. On Saturday he and co-driver Marc Clatworthy lost over 10 minutes when the alternator came off on SS11. Pugsley was pleased, if not slightly relieved, to reach the finish, after oil pressure problems added to a tense final day. Two second place points finishes see the Welsh driver continue to lead the B12 class after three rounds.

John Devlin had contested the Manx National twice as a co-driver, but this was the Banbridge man’s first attempt at the event as a driver. Co-driven by Ashley Trimble, he had a great run in a 2-litre Escort Mk2 to win the B11 class on both Friday and Saturday. While Trimble has a healthy lead in the co-drivers’ section, Devlin is just one point behind Geoff Glover in the B11 drivers’ category. The rear-wheel drive Astra pilot had another extremely good event and together with Keith Barker on the notes survived a late steering concern to continue his 100% points scoring record.

Phil Turner/Ryan Griffiths took second place B11 points on Friday in their Toovey Race Engines/ST Motorsport-backed Escort Mk2, despite hitting some debris in the middle of the road on SS8 – which punctured a rear tyre and ripped a big hole in the wheel arch. They were worried that the differential might have been damaged, and retirement on Saturday proved that it had.

Paul and Julian Doroszczuk were flying in their Drockspeed Motorsport Escort Mk2 and were delighted that their normally aspirated Cosworth engine was working perfectly and losing no oil, despite only 18 miles on the clock since a major rebuild. They lost a lot of time on each pass on The Cronk stage on Friday night, as they just couldn’t get the power down in the wet roads on slick tyres. After all their hard work rebuilding the engine for this event, it was heart-breaking that head gasket failure forced them out on Saturday.

Rhidian Daniels/Tomos Whittle were one of the stars of Friday night, finishing a superb 19th overall in their little Citroën C1 Max, which enabled them to extend their B10 class lead. They were unable to repeat it on Saturday, as engine problems forced them out. Adrian Drury/Cat Lund broke the top mount on their Drury Deliveries Peugeot 106 GTi on the shakedown stage and had to make emergency repairs that they hoped would last all event. They finished Friday’s leg, despite alternator problems, a puncture and the car jumping out of gear, but a snapped throttle cable eventually stopped them in their tracks on Saturday’s opening stage (SS9). With both crews not finishing Saturday’s leg, Daniels still leads B10.

Will Mains declared himself an “island virgin” as he started his first ever rally on the Isle of Man. A double 1400s class win was the aim, and he and co-driver Claire Williams set off at their normal giant-killing pace in their Ray Thomas & Sons/WCS Environmental-backed Vauxhall Nova – although a lack of grip was a major issue on the opening stages. The car felt a lot better in the dry on Saturday, as they continue to dominate the class.

Jason Pritchard (1st) said: “It’s a fantastic feeling to win the Manx National Rally five times and to equal Kenny McKinstry’s record number of victories. Hopefully we’ve got a few more wins in us yet! I love driving this Focus WRC, I love driving these Manx stages and when the two combine it’s just such a pleasure to do. It’s not easy to win here, but when it all clicks you feel in a comfort zone and it’s the best feeling in the world. Losing time with a launch problem and a stall with the overshoot on day two made it difficult to work out exactly where we were in terms of the Asphalt Championship points, but we gave it a good go on a couple of stages to try and make the time up and ensure we came away with maximum points from both days.”

Jamie Jukes (2nd) said: “To be the best of the rest behind Jason is a fantastic result for the Mirage and realistically the best result we could have hoped for. I’m really pleased for the team, because they have worked hard on this car and you can see in the stage times how much it has leapt forward. Because the opportunity to test on Tarmac is so limited, and we have a very good engineer in the car co-driving, we have experimented a lot with set up on this event and we now have an extremely good car. I’m also pleased for myself – Jason is far better than your normal clubman and an extremely efficient and effective driver, so to finish behind him on the Manx National is no mean feat.”

Hugh Hunter (3rd) said: “After the start we had on day one, it’s incredible to come away with an Asphalt Rally Championship podium finish and fourth overall on the rally. Having somehow got through Friday night, on the first stage on Saturday we lost a minute when we stalled at a hairpin – but after that we had good clean stages, a really good battle with Jason and I was pleased to be swapping times with him. I’ve never been to Belgium, so I now quite fancy going to Rally van Wervik as it’s something I’d like to experience.”

Two camera crews and a drone captured some stunning live action footage from the event, all of which is still available to view on the Special Stage Facebook page.

Round 4 of the Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship is the Woodstoxx – Motul Rally van Wervick in Belgium on 15 June.

2019 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship Regulations and Entry Forms are available to download at: asphaltrallying.com

2019 Masterpixel Media Manx National Rally
Top 10 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship overall finishers
1. Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke (Ford Focus WRC05)….1hr 54mins 33.7secs
2. Jamie Jukes/James Morgan (Mitsubishi Mirage)….+3mins 19.8secs
3. Hugh Hunter/Rob Flagg (Ford Focus WRC05)….+5mins 01.7secs
4. Alan Kirkaldy/Cameron Fair (Ford Fiesta R5)….+5mins 20.9secs
5. Damian Cole/Max Freeman (Ford Focus WRC05)….+6mins 13.4secs
6. Darren Atkinson/Phil Sandham (Ford Escort Mk2)….+7mins 27.8secs
7. Wayne Sisson/Neil Shanks (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10)….+7mins 29.6secs
8. Bob Fowden/Den Golding (Subaru Impreza WRC S11)….+9mins 32.0secs
9. Oli Hopkins/Ian Taylor (Mitsubishi Mirage)….+21mins 31.5secs
10. Jonathan Stepney/Aled Daves (Peugeot 205 GTi)….+25mins 01.8secs

2019 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship
Overall driver points after Round 3:
1. Jason Pritchard….90pts
2. Alan Kirkaldy….80pts
3. Damian Cole….78pts
4. Wayne Sisson….70pts
5. Oli Hopkins….58pts
6. Hugh Hunter….55pts
7. Jamie Jukes….54pts
8. Darren Atkinson….47pts
9. David Hardie….45pts
10. Bob Fowden….45pts

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