A top quality field will contest the Nigel Ferguson Fabricators Tour of Epynt on Easter Saturday (16 April), signalling the start of the much anticipated 2022 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship.
There will be a mouth-watering battle for overall victory over the famous mid-Wales military range roads, not least between the drivers who finished second, third and fourth in last year’s BTRDA-run Protyre Asphalt Championship – Mark Kelly, Neil Roskell and John Stone.
Whilst each is hotly tipped for success, unlike some drivers none of them has a microscopic knowledge of Epynt.
Kelly finished fifth and top-placed Epynt rookie on the Old Forge Garage Mewla Rally last year, which was a tremendous result as it was also his first pace note event. He and Neil Colman went on to finish runners-up in the drivers’ and co-drivers’ standings – thanks to results like second on the Hills Ford 3 Shires and PokerStars – and will be aiming for a very strong Protyre Asphalt start in their Roccia Tiles & Bathrooms/Tilemaster Global Ford Fiesta R5+.
Roskell enjoyed a wonderful 2021 season, finishing fourth overall on the 3 Shires and Ford Parts Cheviot Stages Rally and fifth on the PokerStars. His Epynt debut also netted a good haul of points, having overcome gearbox issues to finish 14th overall on last year’s Mewla Rally – and then he returned later in the year to win the rescheduled and non-championship Tour of Epynt. Third in the Protyre Asphalt drivers’ standings at the end of last year was a tremendous achievement and Roskell will start the 2022 season in his ND Civils/Collins Construction Ford Fiesta R5+ with Andrew Roughead co-driving.
Stone swapped his Ford Fiesta RS WRC for a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 midway through 2021 and instantly found it suited his driving style. The forthcoming Tour of Epynt will be his 10th event in the Legend Fires-backed car and whilst he’s only been to the venue a handful of times, he and co-driver Rhys Stoneman will be challenging for victory.
Stephen Simpson has won the Tour of Epynt four times and recorded 22 stage wins, so he will naturally be one of the favourites for victory this year as he teams up with co-driver Patrick Walsh in their CA1 Sport-run Tudor Glass Ford Fiesta Rally2.
One driver with a vast amount of experience over the ranges is six-time Asphalt champion Damian Cole. He will be aiming for a record-breaking 24th rally win on Epynt and will be co-driven by Charlotte Cole in his Get Connected Škoda Fabia R5+.
Bob Fowden has contested over 260 rallies (including 70 on Epynt), scored 32 overall victories and over 60 class wins in a career that now stretches to 44 years and counting. He’s as hard-charging as he was when he started in 1978 and will be a force to be reckoned with when he and Aled Davies contest the Tour of Epynt in their ex-Petter Solberg Comline Auto Parts/NGK-backed Subaru Impreza S11 WRC.
Three-time Wexford Rally winner Steve Wood is no stranger to Epynt and finished fourth on the Tour in 2021. Co-driven by Dale Bowen, the Welshman will be aiming for victory in his powerful City East Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
Oliver Hopkins/Ian Taylor finished runners-up in the Protyre Asphalt B14 class in 2019. Epynt hasn’t always been kind – a heavy roll on the Burma Road in 2013, brake failure in 2015 and a spectacular off on Black Hut Jump in 2016 a few of the misdemeanours that have interrupted some great performances in recent years. There is no doubting the crew’s skill nor the speed of their Hopkins Race Transporters-backed Mitsubishi Mirage, and together they could easily spring a major surprise.
Defending class B14 champion Adrian Spencer always goes well on Epynt and he and co-driver Mark Hewitt will be looking for a strong Protyre Asphalt Championship start in their RED Industries Subaru Impreza WRX, as will Roger Moran/Den Golding and former Dixies Challenge champion Phil Turner/Paul Williams who both appear in a Škoda Fabia R5+.
Steven Ormond-Smith/Shaun Layland contest the event in their rapid Mitsubishi Evo 9, Chris Rice/Neil Bye are expected to debut their new Subaru Impreza, while Richard Clews/Carl Williamson make a very welcome return to the series in their ITG Subaru Impreza STi.
The 2014 Welsh Tarmacadam champion Rob Tout knows his way around Epynt, and together with Terry Martin on the notes should go well in his Tout’s Tool and Plant Hire Mitsubishi Evo 10, while Eurwyn Davies/Gareth Davies contest the event in their Darrian T9.
The Ford Escort Challenge class is very well represented, with crews intent on mixing it with their four-wheel drive counterparts.
Darren Atkinson/Philip Sandham were the top placed two-wheel drive crew home after a stunning drive to seventh overall on last year’s Mewla Rally and will undoubtedly be super-quick again in their Atkinsons Sandblasting/S&W Fabrication-backed Escort Mk2.
Olly Hunter was fairly new to rallying last year, not that you’d notice from his speed and precision in his Escort Mk2. Partnered by Jonathon Kennedy, who won the Nicky Grist Motorsport Award for the best placed junior co-driver last year, Olly will certainly be one to watch – on Epynt and throughout the rest of the season.
Other Escorts to take note of include the Mk2s driven by Andrew Turner/Richard Winstanley, Lewis Gatt/Callum Young, Brad Cole/Jamie Vaughan, Alan Marriage/Colin Jenkins, Huw James/Dafydd Evans, Jay Stanley/Elgan Davies, Chris Berry/Lewis Griffiths, Graham Muter/Steve Hallmark, Terry Brown/Angharad Williams, Antony Allery/Simon Dockray and Phil Turner/Ian Meakin in their Toovey Race Engines machine.
Tom Llewellin will contest the full Protyre Asphalt Championship this year in a gorgeous Historic-spec Weir Rallying Escort Mk2. He and co-driver Jack Bowen gave the black beauty a pre-season shakedown run to eighth overall on the recent AGBO Stages Rally at Weston Park and will be a sight to behold on Epynt.
Geoff Glover will make his 110th Protyre Asphalt rally start in his self-built and unique Vauxhall Astra Mk3. It will also be his 21st entry on the Tour of Epynt and his 39th event on the Epynt ranges! Despite competing against more powerful Escort Mk2s he always challenges for event class wins and has finished in the top three in class B11 at the end of every Protyre Asphalt Championship season since 2015. Co-driven for the 11th season by Keith Barker, Glover will be aiming for another good series start in his wonderful rear-wheel drive machine.
Neil Jones/Alan Thomas will be quick in their more conventional Vauxhall Astra, while Kevin and Jonathan Davies (Peugeot 206), Mike Williams/Ken Bills (MG ZR) and John ‘Tar’ Jones/Rhys Jones (Peugeot 207 S2000) will all be battling for class honours.
Double Protyre Asphalt class B12 champion Mike Pugsley is returning to the series this year in his wonderful self-prepared 1974 Ford Escort Mk1 RS2000. He won his class by almost a minute on the recent Tour of Caerwent and together with co-driver Marc Clatworthy will start as class favourites on Epynt too.
Also out in an Escort Mk1 will be Erdinc Degirmencioglu/Keegan Rees, while Bill Cook/Rob Thompson have also registered for the Protyre Asphalt Championship in their Talbot Sunbeam Lotus.
Also aiming for Protyre Asphalt class success will be Lloyd Morgan/Ellie Williams who have swapped their Nissan Micra for a Citroën C2, Stephen Pritchard/Daniel Petrie (Vauxhall Nova), Ashley Francis-Adams/Ryan Jones (Nissan Micra), Tim Taylor/Dylan Fowler-Bishop (Peugeot 106), Lee Turvey/Roger Neale (Vauxhall Corsa) and Alex and Stephen Roscoe in their Nissan Micra.
Johnnie Mackay/Michael Cruickshank join the Protyre Asphalt Championship in their ISS (Aberdeen)/Kewtech Ford Fiesta ST, as does Leighton Smith/Karen Phelps in their Peugeot 205GTi, James Evans/Ffion Davies in their Ford Fiesta R2 and Tour of Epynt event sponsor Marcus Pagett/Georgie Pagett in their Nissan Micra Kit Car.
William Mains/Claire Williams will be knocking on the door of a top 10 finish in their Roy Thomas & Son-sponsored Vauxhall Nova, the 1400cc Protyre Asphalt champions returning for more giant-killing exploits this year.
“After an intense amount of work to re-organise the 2022 calendar and reset the sporting and technical regulations, all achieved in a short space of time, we are delighted and very excited to be going to the opening round of the Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship on Epynt with such a high-quality entry,” says Paul Morris, Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship Co-ordinator.
“Epynt always provides a fantastic challenge and there will once again be a fierce battle for overall and class points over the famous mid-Wales military roads. It’s impossible to predict a winner, and that’s exactly the way we like it on Protyre Asphalt rallies!”
Protyre Motorsport will take a large number of tyres to Epynt, including Pirelli, Michelin and Hoosier, and operate an on-event fitting service for all registered Championship contenders.
Fans will be welcomed back to Epynt for the first time since before the pandemic – although it is essential that spectators only go to the three official viewing locations.
The spectator points, accessed via the dual carriageway from Llywel, are:
– Llandeilo’r Fan Triangle
– Burma Road (entrance/exit from centre road)
– German village at junction with Cilienni track (disabled viewing location)
For those unable to make it to Epynt, the event will be broadcast live on the Special Stage TV Facebook page, with commentary from former WRC reporter Mark James.
Regulations and details on how to enter the 2022 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship are available at asphaltrallying.com.
To be eligible to score points on the opening round of the series, competitors must register for the 2022 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship and be a member of the BTRDA before arriving on Epynt (as it won’t be possible to register on the day). Membership can be done online at btrdamembership.com.