The Old Forge Garage Mewla Rally will see battle commence for the 2021 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship on Sunday 29 August.
A big Asphalt Championship field will fight for opening round points over the famous Epynt military range, with more R5 spec cars than ever before challenging the World Rally Car contingent for overall honours, whilst an enormous variety of vehicles target class success.
Having won back-to-back Asphalt Championship titles in 2018 and ’19, Jason Pritchard will be aiming for a hat-trick of wins when he starts the series in his North Road Garage Ford Focus WRC05.
It will have been almost two years – 708 days to be precise – since Jason and co-driver Phil Clarke last competed in the car on the 2019 Ford Parts Cheviot Stages Rally. Jason’s made good use of that time and given the car a comprehensive rebuild and will be hoping for a fast and trouble-free start to the season.
John Stone finished third in the Asphalt Championship in 2019, thanks to a string of top performances like victory on the Carryduff Forklift Down Rally. He’s no Epynt expert, yet always goes well there – and together with Tom Woodburn on the pace notes he will be aiming for a win in his ex-Mikko Hirvonen Legend Fires-backed Ford Fiesta WRC.
Also bringing a considerable amount of grunt with them are Gary Le Coadou/Bill Paynter in their ex-Dani Sordo Hyundai i20 WRC, Mark Straker/Ian Meakin in their Darrian T90 GT-R5 and Adrian Spencer/Ashley Trimble in their Subaru Impreza WRX.
Damian Cole will be aiming for a record-breaking seventh Mewla Rally win – and a new record of 24 rally wins on Epynt, as he takes to the mid-Wales ranges for the first time in his Get Connected / TCL-backed Škoda Fabia R5. The six-time Asphalt champion never thought that he’d get near John Price’s incredible records when he won the Mewla Rally for the first time in 2008 (driving a Hyundai Accent WRC) and it would be even more remarkable to set the new records in an R5 car. He’ll be co-driven by Dale Bowen in the ex-Jan Kopecký car.
One man who also believes an R5 car can win the Asphalt title this year is Melvyn Evans. He won the Mewla Rally in 2003, but like Damian has decided to forego the older WRCar machinery to focus on developing R5 and Rally2 spec cars. Co-driven by Mark Glennerster, he’ll drive the family-run Melvyn Evans Motorsport Škoda Fabia R5, which he says fits him like a glove.
Others opting for a newer style of car include Roger Moran/Den Golding (Škoda Fabia R5), while Stephen Simpson/Patrick Walsh, Chris Ford/Matt Daniels, Mark Kelly/Neil Colman, Neil Roskell/Sion Cunniff and Alistair Inglis/Colin Inglis all appear in Fiesta R5s.
Oliver Hopkins/Ian Taylor, who finished runners-up in the B14 class in 2019, will drive their Hopkins Race Transporters-backed Mitsubishi Mirage, which has been fitted with an upgrade pack and a new engine for 2021. They always go well over Epynt, although the Mewla Rally hasn’t been kind to them – with a heavy roll on the Burma Road in 2013, brake failure in 2015 and a spectacular off on Black Hut Jump in 2016!
Philip Hopkins has held top 10 positions on all three of his previous visits to Epynt, but hopes to reach the finish for the first time on this, his first Mewla Rally start. Co-driven by Aled Edwards, he’ll drive his Mitsubishi Evo 6 which is 90% new following a major rebuild, including a lighter shell and sequential gearbox.
Former Dixies Challenge champion Philip Turner appears in a new Škoda Fabia, while Mark Holmes/Mark Perryman drives a Fiesta S2000.
Also out will be Chris Rice/Craig Cameron (Subaru Impreza), Craig Jones/Shaun Layland (Mitsubishi Evo 9) and Steven Ormond-Smith/Dan Colley (Mitsubishi Evo IX).
There is sure to be a close battle in the Ford Escort Challenge; the all-new category for Mk1, Mk2 and Mk3 rear-wheel drive Escorts, which has an end of season prize of a custom made and fitted Simpson Race stainless steel exhaust system, courtesy of Scott Williams Motorsport, going to the winning driver.
Competing for this, as well as class honours, will be the likes of 2018 class B11 champions Paul and Julian Doroszczuk in their completely rebuilt normally-aspirated Cosworth engined Drockspeed Motorsport Ford Escort Mk2, Mark Jasper/Don Whyatt in their rapid Smith & Jones 2.5-litre engined Escort Mk2 and the 2019 class B13 champions Darren Atkinson/Philip Sandham in their Atkinsons Sandblasting/Dennison Trailers/S&W Fabrication-backed Escort Mk2.
Battling the Escorts for B13 class points will be the likes of Sara Williams/Dai Roberts (Renault Clio), Anthony Eaton/Ian Jackson (Ford Fiesta), Chris Marshall/Graham Wild (Mitsubishi Evo 5) and Andy Brinkley/Mark Mason (BMW M3).
The 2019 class B12 champions Mike Pugsley/Marc Clatworthy return in their 1974 Escort Mk1 RS2000 and will be battling for class honours with Jonathan Stepney/Aled Davies in their Motorhome Services Scotland-backed 1.9-litre engined Peugeot 205 GTi and Tim Phelps/Elwyn Manuel in a Talbot Sunbeam.
Geoff Glover/Keith Barker, who finished runners-up in class B11 in both 2018 and ’19, return in their self-built rear-wheel drive Vauxhall Astra. The Mewla Rally will be Geoff’s 106th Asphalt Rally Championship start in the car and his 22nd Asphalt season!
They’ll be up against the likes of Richard and Pat Egger (Vauxhall Nova), Chris Butcher/Jaime-Lee Fox (Nissan Sunny F2), Lee Edwards/Will Atkins (Ford Escort G3), Nathan Evans/Rhys Williams Edwards (Renault Clio Cup), Josh Evans/Gareth Price (Renault Clio) and the Escort Mk2 pairing of Ben Crump/Clive Jones and Chris Berry/Lewis Griffiths.
Aiming for early maximum points in class B10 will be Bradley Howlett/Nick Vandevenne (Peugeot 208).
Meanwhile, Stuart Anderson/Kenny Owen (Vauxhall Chevette HSR) and Mike Simpson/Alan Jones (Ford Escort Mk1) will be keen to open their account in the Historic class – with more crews set to join on the following rounds.
William Mains took his Vauxhall Nova to an incredible 11th overall on the Mewla Rally in 2018, missing out on a top 10 position by just 41 seconds. Then in 2019 he added the Protyre Asphalt 1400 class title to his Welsh Tarmacadam and King of Epynt class triumphs. Co-driven by Sion Jones, the Llandysul driver will looking for more giant-killing performances again this year, as well as another class title.
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.
Owing to a large number of military training exercises, access to the range will be strictly controlled and spectators are not permitted.
Instead, fans can watch the action streamed live on the Special Stage TV Facebook page, with Howard Davies spearheading the commentary team. RallyFM.net will also be broadcasting live, while live results can be found on ewrc-results.com.
This Sunday’s Old Forge Garage Mewla Rally is set to be a fantastic start to the 2021 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship – and after such a long Covid-19 enforced break, the Asphalt co-ordinating team are looking forward to finally seeing and meeting new friends and renewing acquaintances with old friends.
2021 The Old Forge Garage Mewla Rally – top 10 seeded starters
1. Damian Cole/Dale Bowen….Škoda Fabia R5
2. Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke….Ford Focus WRC05
3. Melvyn Evans/Mark Glennerster….Škoda Fabia R5
4. Bob Fowden/Aled Davies….Subaru Impreza S11 WRC
5. Mark Kelly/Neil Colman….Ford Fiesta R5
6. Stephen Simpson/Patrick Walsh….Ford Fiesta R5
7. John Stone/Tom Woodburn….Ford Fiesta WRC
9. Mark Straker/Ian Meakin….Darrian T90 GT-R5
11. Darren Atkinson/Philip Sandham….Ford Escort Mk2
12. Craig Jones/Shaun Layland….Mitsubishi Evo 9