Ruairi Bell heads the Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship into Round 2 of the BTRDA’s sealed-surface series, the Beatson’s Building Supplies Jim Clark Rally (27/28 May) – and like the vast majority of drivers it will be the first time he has contested the Scottish closed road event.
But that’s unlikely to worry Ruairi or any other driver in fact, as all are well accomplished in tackling new stages and rising to the challenge of driving flat-out over previously unchartered territory.
And to prove the point, Bell had never been to Epynt before, yet he and co-driver Max Freeman led the Nigel Ferguson Fabricators Tour of Epynt from start to finish to win and score maximum Protyre Asphalt points in their Pirelli-shod and Inspira-backed Škoda Fabia R5.
All the Protyre Asphalt rallies were new to Mark Kelly last year, yet that didn’t stop him from challenging for the title and eventually finish runner-up either. He and co-driver Neil Colman have moved up to another level this year and after finishing second on Epynt they will be looking to keep the early momentum going in their Michelin-shod and Roccia/Tile Master-backed Ford Fiesta R5+.
James Williams has quickly mastered his Hyundai Power Products-backed Hyundai i20 R5 and with Dai Roberts on the pace notes will be looking for his first overall victory in the car.
John Stone has got his Legend Fires Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 working to his liking, so much so that he’d never been so quick over Epynt and recently scored a magnificent victory on the Compbrake Motorsport Stages at Three Sisters, co-driven by his son Alex. John will be looking for another strong textbook points-scoring finish to strengthen his Protyre Asphalt Championship challenge, as he’s partnered this time by co-driver Laura Connell on the Jim Clark.
Stephen Simpson is one of the few with past Jim Clark Rally experience, having finished eighth when the event last ran in 2019. Co-driven by Neil Shanks, he return to Berwickshire sixth in the Protyre Asphalt points table and hoping to use his knowledge of the roads to good effect in his CA1 Sport-run Tudor Glass Ford Fiesta Rally2.
Neil Roskell also contested the Jim Clark in 2019, finishing 17th overall in a Subaru Impreza. He’s gained a lot more speed and experience since then, as his drive to third overall on last year’s Protyre Asphalt Championship highlights. He wasn’t entirely happy with the set-up of his ND Civils/Collins Construction Ford Fiesta R5+ on the opening round of the 2022 series on Epynt, but he and Andrew Roughead will arrive in Scotland on the back of winning the non-championship Manx Rally and full of confidence.
Steve Wood was hampered by a handbrake issue on Epynt, but he was still the first non-R5 finisher in his City East Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Co-driven by Dale Bowen, the Welshman will be aiming to put all his closed road rallying experience to best use and continue his good start to the season in Scotland.
Craig Jones scored some wonderful results last year in a Mitsubishi Evo 9 and now the Brecon man is back in an RHL/CMJ Motors Ford Fiesta 4×4, with Ian Taylor on the notes.
Others to look out for include Dale Robinson/Stuart Loudon in their Ford Fiesta R5, Chris Ford/Matthew Daniels in a Ford Fiesta Rally2 and Paul Kirtley/David Jones in their Subaru Impreza WRC.
The Jim Clark must be one of the few UK asphalt rallies that Roger Moran hasn’t contested before, so there is no doubt that he’ll be looking forward to a new challenge. Co-driven by Den Golding he’ll be fast too, as he wheels out his Škoda Fabia R5+.
Mark Holmes set the 11th fastest time on the opening stage of last year’s Ford Parts Cheviot Stages Rally. Co-driven by Mark Perryman, he’ll be eager to keep that momentum going on his first Protyre Asphalt appearance of 2022 in his rapid Ford Fiesta S2000.
Richard Clews enjoyed a trouble-free run to class B14 victory on Epynt in his ITG Subaru Impreza STi. He’ll head to Scotland with Hamish Campbell alongside him on the pace notes. It will be an enthralling battle between them and Rob Tout/Terry Martin in their AJM Mitsubishi Evo 10 and the defending class B14 champion Adrian Spencer – who will be partnered this time by Ashley Trimble (the 2019 class B11 co-driver champion) in his RED Industries Subaru Impreza WRX.
Anth Eaton finished fourth in class and 25th overall on the 2019 Jim Clark Rally. He’s another driver who has gained a considerably more experience since then and will be hoping for an even better result when he and co-driver Ian Jackson team up in their Autotest Ford Fiesta R5+.
Darren Atkinson/Philip Sandham will be hoping to score their first class B13 and Ford Escort Challenge points of the year after retiring their Atkinsons Sandblasting/S&W Fabrication-backed Escort Mk2 on Epynt – as will class B11 stars Olly Hunter/Jonathon Kennedy, who put their Vauxhall-engined Ford Escort Mk2 off the road on Epynt.
Also aiming for Ford Escort Challenge points will be Brad Cole/Jamie Vaughan in their 2.5-litre Smith & Jones powered Hydroline Solutions Escort Mk2 and Antony Allery/Simon Dockray in their Escort RS.
Jonathan Stepney, who scored maximum B12 points on the 2019 Manx National and finished runner-up in class at the end of the season, returns in his 1.9-litre engined Griffiths/Gavin Griffiths Group-backed Peugeot 205 GTi – which is now equipped with uprated suspension and a sequential gearbox. The Perth-based Welshman will be co-driven by his stepfather Aled Davies.
It wouldn’t be a Protyre Asphalt round without Geoff Glover, who makes his 111th Championship start in his rear-wheel drive Vauxhall Astra Mk3. An oil leak in the rear diff on Epynt didn’t prevent him and co-driver Keith Barker from winning class B11, as they head to Scotland aiming to extend their advantage.
They’ll be pushed hard by the Doroszczuk brothers, as Paul and Julian make a welcome return in their self-prepared normally-aspirated Cosworth-engined Drockspeed Motorsport Escort Mk2. The 2018 class B11 champions contested the Jim Clark in 2019 and finished second in class and 37th overall – and will no doubt be pushing hard and on the rev-limiter this time too.
Lewis Gatt/Callum Young had an excellent run to class B10 victory last time out on Epynt. They had a few problems along the way, including no intercom for the first loop of stages, so will be hoping for a clean run this time in their Gatt Speed Ford Escort Mk2.
William Mains won class B9 on Epynt and will be partnered this time by Emily Easton-Page as he makes the long trip from west Wales in his WCS/Roy Thomas & Son-sponsored Vauxhall Nova.
The Jim Clark might appear to be Johnnie Mackay’s local Protyre Asphalt round, although it’s a five-hour drive from his home in Aberdeen! He did contest the event in 2019, albeit in very different cold and icy November conditions, and he and co-driver Michael Cruickshank will arrive full of confidence having won class N3 on their Epynt debut in their ISS/Kewtech Ford Fiesta ST.
Protyre Motorsport will take a large number of tyres to the Jim Clark Rally, including Pirelli, Michelin and Hoosier, and operate an on-event fitting service for all registered Championship contenders.
Special Stage TV will be live streaming the action from the event on its Facebook page. Commentary will come from former WRC reporter Mark James, who will be accompanied by the 1990 FIA Ladies World Champion, Louise Aitken-Walker MBE.
Duns Square will host the ceremonial start of the Beatson’s Building Supplies Jim Clark Rally with the first car leaving the ramp at 19.00 on Friday 27 May. Crews will go straight into the 11.84-mile Longformacus moorland stage, which is tackled twice before the overnight halt back in Duns. The Jim Clark Memorial Motor Club organised event restarts at 10.00 on Saturday 28 May and whilst the day contains a further seven stages, competition in the Protyre Asphalt Championship will end at the finish line of SS8 – after two runs through the Westruther (6.22 miles), Scott’s View (6.28 miles) and Eccles (8.75 miles) stages.
Regulations and details on how to enter the 2022 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship are available at: asphaltrallying.com.
Membership of the BTRDA can be done online at: btrdamembership.com.