Mark Kelly has made a remarkably rapid climb up the Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship ranks – and now he and co-driver Neil Colman are committed to raising their already very high standards even further as they aim for the overall title in their Roccia Tiles & Bathrooms/Tilemaster Global Ford Fiesta R5+.
Having only previously contested single venue rallies, Mark enjoyed an amazing first Protyre Asphalt season last year in the Michelin-shod car.
He netted fifth-place points on his championship debut, finishing just 14 seconds behind Bob Fowden/Aled Davies (Subaru Impreza S11 WRC) on not just his first visit to Epynt, but on his first pace note event too.
Mark then scored second-place points on the Hills Ford 3 Shires Stages, with second on both the double header rounds of the PokerStars giving him the lead of Britain’s premier sealer-surface series.
He was one of three drivers battling for the title going into the final Ford Parts Cheviot Stages Rally – ending the season second, nine points behind Jason Pritchard (Ford Focus WRC), in the drivers’ standings.
Mark was even faster over the rollercoaster mid-Wales military range this time, beating Epynt experts like of Bob Fowden and Damian Cole and finishing second overall on the opening round of the 2022 Protyre Asphalt Championship, the Nigel Ferguson Fabricators Tour of Epynt.
Ruairi Bell/Max Freeman might have won the event by 44 seconds in their Inspira Škoda Fabia R5 – an incredible achievement on the driver’s Epynt debut – but had it not been for a 20 second time penalty for hitting a chicane and a few minor offs, Mark would have been a lot closer.
“We came to Epynt this year with a target of being more committed than we were last time we were there. We had a good result on the Mewla last year, but I was a bit underwhelmed that we weren’t as committed as we could have been, which was down to me and my experience,” says Mark.
“This time we put that right. We were committed and on the pace from the word go. And being on the pace right from the start is one of the key areas that I’ve been working on. On the Tour of Epynt we did just that and maintained a good pace throughout the day.
“We had a few moments. We ran wide on a corner on stage six and got into a ditch in fourth gear and managed to carry our speed and get out. We got away with it and came home with a good result.
“To finish second, in the company that we’ve been in on Epynt, is something I’m really pleased about.
“We want to go to each rally and give it our very best shot and a lot is down to the preparation. In the ten days before Epynt we worked hard on the pace notes and we’re going to be doing that for every event, because if you put the work in you’ll get the result.”
Round 2 of the 2022 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship is the Beatson’s Building Supplies Jim Clark Rally on 27/28 May.