Melvyn Evans has extended his lead in the Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship after securing another maximum points score on the Hills Ford Three Shires Stages Rally.
A technical issue with the results system meant that all the stage times had to be checked and confirmed by hand, hence the delay. But now the results have been declared final, Melvyn can celebrate his second 30 points haul of the season, having finished third overall on the Cheltenham Motor Club-organised closed road event – to go with his outright victory on the opening Old Forge Garage Mewla Rally.
He and most of the other crews had an unnerving start to the Three Shires when they discovered a number of chicanes weren’t positioned correctly. He and co-driver Mark Glennerster hit two misplaced straw bale chicanes on the opening two stages, damaging the front of their Melvyn Evans Motorsport Škoda Fabia R5+.
The car wasn’t badly damaged and he made it back to the Three Counties Showground service area to make repairs, put on softer suspension and adjusted the set-up of the car to better suit the conditions.
Melvyn remained slightly cautious throughout the event, never pushing to the limit but driving hard enough to maintain the top Protyre Asphalt position.
“It was nice to do these closed road stages, which were quite technical and very fast in places,” said Melvyn.
“There was a problem with the positioning of the chicanes and we hit two quite hard early on and I thought that we were out, but the car kept going. We were glad to get to the finish and very pleased to have scored maximum Protyre Asphalt Championship points.”
Mark Kelly/Neil Colman were on stunning form in their Flext-backed Ford Fiesta R5+ and chased Melvyn hard. After a slightly too cautious start they never put a foot wrong and scored second place points to move them up to third in the Protyre MSUK Asphalt Rally Championship.
Damian Cole was pressing on in his Get Connected/TCL-backed Fabia R5+, although like many other drivers the misplacement of the chicanes upset his rhythm and he remained cautious throughout the event. Hitting another chicane on the second loop (SS6) was unavoidable, even whilst driving at a reduced speed and at heightened caution, and he and co-driver Andrew Roughead were relieved to reach the finish. Despite the unsettling issues, it had been a great run, with Damian picking up third placed Protyre Asphalt points to move him up to second in the overall drivers’ standings.
In only his third ever closed road event, Neil Roskell took his ND Civils/Collins Construction Fiesta R5+ to a fine fourth place Protyre Asphalt finish. Partnered this time by John Cope, he enjoyed a great run and moves up to fifth in the overall points table.
Philip Hopkins was on brilliant form in his Hopkins Race Transporters Mitsubishi Evo 6 and relishing a more level playing field that the event represented, as nobody knew the stages really well. Co-driven by former British Truck Racing champion and old friend Dave Jenkins, a visit to a ditch on a fast right hand corner on the penultimate stage cost him a position (as he finished four seconds behind Neil) but it could not deny him a great result, as he shoots up both the class B14 and overall leaderboard.
There was also late drama for Philip’s brother Oliver Hopkins and co-driver Ian Taylor. Their Mitsubishi Mirage successfully completing the final two stages with a slipping clutch, having had a rear anti-roll bar snap on the middle loop, with Oli now just two points behind Philip in class B14.
Craig Jones/Shaun Layland had an eventful start when a car ahead of them rolled and blocked SS2. They enjoyed a great middle set of stages, the fast lanes of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire suiting their RHL Motors Mitsubishi Evo 9. Craig continues to lead the highly competitive class B14 and has moved up to fourth in the overall drivers’ table.
Mark Holmes/Mark Perryman survived a massive high-speed spin in their Fiesta S2000 on SS2. The middle loop of stages went extremely well, before a clutch issue on the last loop of stages caused some concern, although they took home points for eighth. The result puts them tied for the lead of the R5 class.
They finished ahead of Roger Moran/Den Golding, who are quickly acclimatising to their new Fabia R5+. A cracked rear brake disc on their Škoda didn’t slow them too much, as the Ludlow driver moves up to sixth in the overall driver standings.
It was also a good event for David Campling/James Ducker in their DCC Logistics Škoda Fabia, as the Doncaster driver recorded his first Protyre Asphalt top 10 finish – and moves up to third in R5.
Lee Edwards pushed hard in his self-built Ford Escort G3, despite an early issue with the battery. The intercom failed on the middle loop of stages, leaving co-driver Robbie Pugh to direct the way with hand signals only for four stages (SS6-9). It turned out to be another great result for Lee, with another set of maximum points in both class B11 and the Ford Escort Challenge to give him a healthy lead in both categories.
Phil Turner returned to the Protyre Asphalt series in his rapid Toovey Race Engines Escort Mk2 and was back on the pace once harder tyres and a softer suspension setting were fitted at first service. A momentary visit to a ditch at a hairpin on SS14 didn’t prevent him and co-driver Terry Martin finishing second in the Escort Challenge and class B11 categories.
Ben Crump/Ian Beamond were impressive in their rapid yellow Coltech Rally Services Escort Mk2, while the normally mega fast Mark Jasper/Don Whyatt were somewhat out of sorts in their Hoosier-shod black Escort Mk2. A gear change issue added to a frustrating day, although their efforts were rewarded with the class B13 win.
Mark Straker admitted to being a bit rusty competing on closed roads and a launch control issue with his SORT-backed Darrian T90 GT-R5 saw him stall the car three times on the opening loop of four stages. Not using launch control was the solution and he soon put his experience of rallying in Ireland to good use on the second and third loop of stages. Partnered by Ian Meakin, Mark enjoyed an “amazing day” to finish second in class B13.
Richy Williams/Will Atkins caught two cars on the opening stage in their Versteer Motorsport BMW E30, which was one of the disadvantages of being seeded at number 120 in such a powerful 2.8-litre car. They eventually finished third in class B13, one place ahead of Andy Brinkley/Mark Mason who also scored their first points of the season after a misfire had forced their BMW M3 out of the Mewla.
Chris Simmons/Andrew Moss were precise and fast in their immaculate 2.5-litre Millington engined Darrian T9 GTR and their fine drive was rewarded with their first class B13 points of the season.
Mike Pugsley/Marc Clatworthy bounced back from their first retirement in over a decade on the Mewla Rally to win, and take the lead of, class B12 in their 1974 Escort Mk1 RS2000.
Mike Simpson extended his lead in the Historic class after a fine drive on his local round of the Protyre Asphalt series. Co-driven by Dale Gibbons, the former HRCR Historic Masters champion won his class again in his 2-litre Pinto-engined 1975 Ford Escort Mk1.
Stuart Anderson/Kenny Owen damaged the front of their ex-works Vauxhall Chevette HSR at a hairpin on SS9, but luckily for them service followed and they were able to repair the bodywork. A good run through the final loop of stages saw them finish second in the Historic class.
Steve Ellison enjoyed his first closed road rally event in his Buildbase Escort Mk2. Co-driven by Jonathon Kennedy, he has jumped to third in the Historic section and fourth in the Escort Challenge.
The clutch slave cylinder started to play up on William Mains’ Roy Thomas & Son-sponsored Vauxhall Nova on the middle loop of stages. It needed a cool head in hot conditions to get the car to the finish, which he and co-driver Sion Jones did to once again win class B9.
It’s also two maximum scores out of two rounds for Bradley Howlett/Nick Vandevenne in class B10. They started very quickly in their Peugeot 208, so much so that they caught two cars on SS3.
A leak in the air-shift actuator had caused Anthony Eaton/Ian Jackson problems on the Mewla Rally, but now that was fixed they were flying in their Autotest Fiesta R4, especially after softer compound tyres, which suited the car down the lanes much better, were fitted. They scored a good result to move up to fourth in class B14.
Chris Daykin/Michael Weeks also enjoyed a great run in their RAF-decaled Subaru Impreza. The car was showing no signs of the misfire and anti-lag issues that interrupted their run last time out on Epynt, and they reached the finish without an issue to score their first class B14 points of 2021.
There were several retirements, most notably Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke who stopped their North Road Garage Ford Fiesta S2000 with a severe engine misfire shortly after the watersplash on SS11.
John Stone/Rhys Stoneman broke the rear differential leaving the start line of SS1 in their Legend Fires-backed Ford Fiesta WRC.
Stephen Simspon/Patrick Walsh also had an early bath after their Tudor Glass Ford Fiesta R5+ lost its all-important third gear on SS3.
After surviving a big moment on the opening stage, Adrian Spencer/Ashley Trimble were going well in their RED Industries Subaru Impreza WRX until the subframe broke as they turned into the spectator area on the second last stage and retired with no steering.
Matt Pierce/Jez Rogers were flying on the first stage, catching the car ahead of them within the first three miles of SS1. Unfortunately, transmission failure stopped their 2-litre Vauxhall engine Escort Mk2 a mile before the end of the opening stage.
Chris Butcher/Ryan Jones suffered a misfire on the opening loop of stages and changed the plugs and coil pack on their Nissan Sunny F2 in first service in the hopes of fixing the problem. The next road section confirmed that the misfire was still there and they were forced to return to service, where an injection wiring fault was discovered.
Nathan Evans/Rhys Edwards caught a car on SS1, but their good start came to an end when a late call towards the end of SS5 saw their rapid Renault Clio Cup car hit a hedge and break a ball joint – and with four stages of the loop remaining, it was game over. Josh Evans/Tony Edwards survived the opening stage with no intercom, but their rally ended when they put their Renault Clio RS 172 in a ditch on the second loop.
Tim Phelps/Elwyn Manuel were having a good run in their Talbot Sunbeam before the clutch master cylinder failed in the middle loop of stages.
Next up on the 2021 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship calendar is the PokerStars Rally on the Isle of Man. Organised by Manx Auto Sport, it is the double-header round of the series, with full Championship points awarded at the end of day one (Round 3, Friday 1 October) and day two (Round 4, Saturday 2 October).
Hills Ford Three Shires Stages Rally
Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship – top 10 overall finishers
1. Melvyn Evans/Mark Glennerster (Škoda Fabia R5+)….1hr 00mins 40secs
2. Mark Kelly/Neil Colman (Ford Fiesta R5+)….1hr 00mins 40secs
3. Damian Cole/Andrew Roughead (Škoda Fabia R5+)….1hr 02mins 58secs
4. Neil Roskell/John Cope (Ford Fiesta R5+)….1hr 03mins 42secs
5. Philip Hopkins/David Jenkins (Mitsubishi Evo 6)….1hr 03mins 46secs
6. Craig Jones/Shaun Layland (Mitsubishi Evo 9)….1hr 04mins 09secs
7. Oliver Hopkins/Ian Taylor (Mitsubishi Mirage)….1hr 04mins 40secs
8. Mark Holmes/Mark Perryman (Ford Fiesta S2000)….1hr 04mins 43secs
9. Roger Moran/Den Golding (Škoda Fabia R5+)….1hr 04mins 54secs
10. David Campling/James Ducker (Škoda Fabia R5)….1hr 05mins 19secs
2021 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship
Provisional overall driver points after Round 2:
1. Melvyn Evans….60pts
2. Damian Cole….54pts
3. Mark Kelly….53pts
4. Craig Jones….46pts
5. Neil Roskell….44pts
6. Roger Moran….41pts