Three drivers go into the final round of the Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship aiming to become the 2021 drivers’ champion – with Mark Kelly, Neil Roskell and Jason Pritchard battling for the title on the Ford Parts Cheviot Stages Rally (Sunday 24 October) over the Otterburn military range in Northumberland.
Mark arrives at the fifth and final round holding a 15 point lead. In his first season in Britain’s premier sealed-surface series, the Bolton driver has recorded three second place finishes and a fifth in his Flext-backed Ford Fiesta R5+. He’s never been to Otterburn before and he and co-driver Neil Colman will be looking for another good result to offset the high 25 point score that they currently need to drop when the final end of season points are calculated.
Mark currently has 109 points and the most he can finish the season on is 114.
Neil Roskell goes into the final round second in the series after an excellent first season in his ND Civils/Collins Construction-backed Ford Fiesta R5+ which has included a third, fourth and fifth place points finish. His son Daniel is down to co-drive on the Cheviot, but it’s more likely to be John Cope on the pace notes. Neil has the most limited experience of Otterburn possible, as the engine blew on his Subaru Impreza on the first corner of the Tyneside Stages! The Blackpool driver has a 12th place points score to drop and is therefore a real contender for the title as he can score big on Otterburn.
Neil currently has 95 points and the most he can finish the season on is 107.
Jason Pritchard is third in the series, seven points behind Neil and 20 points behind Mark. He has more experience of Otterburn than his rivals, having won the previous two Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship titles on the Cheviot.
Having retired on the Hills Ford Three Shires Stages, he and co-driver Phil Clarke have already effectively dropped a score and can add 29 points to their total points tally if they were to win the final round in their North Road Garage Ford Focus WRC05.
Jason currently has 89 points and the most he can finish the season on is 118 – which means that he only has to finish in the top four to win his third straight Protyre Asphalt title.
Other drivers could play a crucial role in the destiny of the title, as happened in 2019 when Alan Kirkaldy/Cameron Fair won the event and Jason Pritchard won the title by finishing third, despite finishing behind title rival Damian Cole on the day.
John Stone for one is more than capable of influencing who wins the title. He quickly got to grips with his new Legend Fires Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 on the PokerStars; the car suits him well and he and co-driver Tom Woodburn will be on the pace right from the word go on the Cheviot. John, who won the Cheviot in 2010, can’t win the Protyre Asphalt title himself but could finish runner-up.
Stephen Simpson and co-driver Patrick Walsh have both won the Cheviot twice, and in 2007 they won it together in a Hyundai Accent WRC3. They might not be in with a shout of this year’s Protyre Asphalt title, but they too could certainly influence where it goes as they start as potential event winners in their Tudor Glass Ford Fiesta R5+.
Damian Cole hasn’t had the best of seasons, but he hopes to change that with a newly acquired Ford Fiesta R5+ Mk1 Evo 2. Co-driven by Andrew Roughead, the six time Protyre Asphalt champion and four time Cheviot Stages winner will debut the Get Connected/TCL car on Otterburn.
Paul Kirtley/David Jones will also contest the event in their Subaru Impreza WRC, as do Chris Ford/Matt Daniel in their Century Autosport Ford Fiesta R5.
There is a close battle for the class B14 title, which Adrian Spencer now leads. The RED Industries Subaru Impreza WRX driver, who is co-driven by Rick Sutcliffe, is just one point ahead of Anthony Eaton, who has enjoyed a great season in his Autotest Ford Fiesta R4. Ian Jackson, who has guided Anthony all year, has one hand on the class B14 co-drivers’ trophy.
Craig Jones will be aiming to bounce back from his crash on the PokerStars Rally. Co-driven by Shaun Layland, the Brecon driver could still win the B14 title, but needs another very good result in his RHL and Jay Jays backed Mitsubishi Evo 9.
Richard Slinger/Stuart Walker had a somewhat frustrating outing on the Isle of Man, so will be aiming to end the season on a high in their smart Mitsubishi Evo 6. Likewise, Chris Marshall/Graham Wild will be hoping for a good run in their Mitsubishi Evo 5, after an early exit on the PokerStars.
Chris Daykin/Michael Weeks missed the PokerStars but will be looking for another strong class B14 points scoring finished, like they achieved after a faultless run on the Hills Ford Three Shires, in their RAF-decaled Subaru Impreza.
Ben Crump has a great chance to secure both the Ford Escort Challenge and class B11 titles when he appears in his Coltech Rally Services Escort Mk2. Co-driver Ian Beamond was side-lined with tonsilitis on the Isle of Man and hopes to be back in the navigator’s seat for the important season finale.
Geoff Glover will be hoping that another good result in his self-built rear-wheel drive Vauxhall Astra will be enough to give his co-driver the B11 title, as Keith Barker tops the leaderboard going into the final round.
Paul and Julian Doroszczuk became class B11 champions after a fantastic run on the 2018 Cheviot, and the Drockspeed Motorsport brothers are looking forward to another fast and furious run in their powerful normally-aspirated Cosworth-engined Ford Escort Mk2.
Olly Hunter is new to rallying, but he’s already shown a natural turn of speed in his Vauxhall-engined Ford Escort Mk2, most notably by winning the Mintex Award for the best improvement on seeding on the Old Forge Garage Mewla Rally. Co-driven by Jonathon Kennedy, he’ll be one to watch as he heads to Otterburn for the first time.
Nathan Evans, this time co-driven by Terry Martin, appears in his rapid Renault Clio, while Antony Allery drives his Salter Demolition Escort RS with Daniel Tribe on the pace notes.
Mark Jasper will be aiming for the class B13 drivers’ title, as he and co-driver Don Whyatt contest the event in their Ford Escort Mk2. Andy Brinkley can’t win the title himself, but a good run in his BMW M3 could hand Mark Mason the navigators’ trophy.
Mark Holmes/Mark Perryman lead the R5 class by nine points after scoring a win and two second place finishes in their Ford Fiesta S2000, and another second would be good enough to give them a well-deserved title.
Stuart Anderson/Kenny Owen have already clinched the Historic class title after a great season in their ex-works Vauxhall Chevette HSR and will be out to enjoy themselves before the winter break.
Protyre Motorsport will take a large range of tyres to Otterburn, including Pirelli, Michelin and Hoosier, and operate an on-event fitting service for all registered Championship contenders.
Special Stage TV will live stream action footage on its Facebook page, with Howard Davies spearheading the commentary team. It will also interview crews during the day, all of which can be seen on its edited highlights programmes.
Organised by Whickham & District Motor Club and Hadrian Motor Sports Club, the 2021 Ford Parts Cheviot Stages Rally (Sunday 24 October) will contain 12 stages totalling 61 stage miles, all held on the Otterburn military range in Northumberland. The event starts on the range at 08.30, with this year’s Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally champions crowned at the podium ceremony at 16.45.