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James Williams closes in on Protyre Asphalt lead after Jim Clark charge

James Williams has closed to just one point behind Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship leader Ruairi Bell after scoring maximum points on Round 2 of the series, the Beatson’s Building Supplies Jim Clark Rally (27/28 May).

Co-driven by fellow west Walian Dai Roberts, James set a stunning pace in his Hyundai Power Products-backed Hyundai i20 R5 to score his best result to date in his Michelin-shod car.

“The last day was all about managing our pace and driving within ourselves to get to the finish,” said James.

“On the second to last stage we had a bit of an issue with the boost valve and my heart was in my mouth about the podium, but we emptied the tank and set the fastest time on the last stage, which was a nice way to end the rally. 

“There was a lot of emotion at the end of this rally. I drive with my heart on my sleeve and we have thoroughly enjoyed this event. We’re just over the moon to have scored such a good result on such a challenging event.”

Ruairi lost time on the event’s opening two stages on Friday night after technical issues in his Pirelli-shod and Inspira-backed Škoda Fabia R5 left him and co-driver Max Freeman languishing down in 12th position. They fought back brilliantly as the event continued in daylight on Saturday, roaring back up the leaderboard to take second-place Protyre Asphalt points and maintain their championship lead – albeit by the smallest of margins.

Steve Wood put in another excellent performance to once again come home as the top non-R5 finisher in his City East Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Co-driven by Dale Bowen, Steve excelled at night and despite a few mistakes in daylight, including a few time-consuming engine stalls, he was delighted to pick up third-place points.

Mark Kelly has also given his Protyre Asphalt title aspirations a major boost with a fourth-placed points finish in his Michelin-shod and Roccia/Tile Master-backed Ford Fiesta R5+. Co-driven by Neil Colman, he struggled to find a good rhythm on the first three stages and damaged the front wing at a chicane, but after that some extremely good stage times were rewarded with his second big points haul of the season.

Jason Pritchard registered for the Protyre Asphalt Rally Championship before the start of the Jim Clark and was therefore eligible to score points. And that’s exactly what the three-time champion did, with he and co-driver Phil Clarke enjoying their best run and first finish en route to a fifth-place points finish, despite a slow puncture and windscreen wiper issues in their North Road Garage/Get Jerky backed Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.

Stephen Simpson/Neil Shanks had a great run to a sixth-place points finish in their CA1 Sport-run Tudor Glass Ford Fiesta Rally2.

Neil Roskell’s event started with him not putting the bonnet pins in and the bonnet on his ND Civils/Collins Construction Ford Fiesta R5+ flying open on the shakedown stage! Co-driven by Andrew Roughead, he caught a car halfway through the opening stage and was stuck behind it all the way to the flying finish. Whilst trying to regain time on SS2, he got on to a dirty line and skidded into a solid salt box, narrowly missing a rear wheel, and then later in the same stage he hit some gravel and whacked into a chicane, damaging the front of the car. Daylight was much less dramatic and saw a great run to seventh Protyre Asphalt points.

John Stone’s Legend Fires Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 won the Dynamic Fluids best-presented car award, which was presented to Paul Megretton who looks after the car. After that great start John and co-driver Laura Connell settled into a fast rhythm and were rewarded with eighth in the Protyre Asphalt series.

Darren Atkinson/Philip Sandham scored their first class B13 and Ford Escort Challenge points after a strong run in their Atkinsons Sandblasting/S&W Fabrication-backed Escort Mk2 – despite, like many, their windscreen getting covered in bugs and insects and creating quite a distraction at times.

Friday’s second pass on the Longformacus test was the first time that Lewis Gatt had rallied in the dark – the bumps and associated issues with lights not distracting him too much as he set a good pace. He and co-driver Callum Young then enjoyed an excellent day in the daylight, with the Hoosier-shod Gatt Speed Ford Escort Mk2 driver leading both class B10 and the Ford Escort Challenge after two rounds.

Maximum class points on his 111th Asphalt Championship start sees Geoff Glover take the lead of B11 – he and co-driver Keith Barker enjoying another fast and trouble-free run in their self-prepaped rear-wheel drive Vauxhall Astra Mk3. 

Gravel pulled out by the cars ahead created problems for Olly Hunter/Jonathon Kennedy in their Vauxhall-engined Ford Escort Mk2, as did some of the tight chicanes. Having retired on the opening round, their first points of the season see them shoot up to second in class B11.

Former B11 class champions Paul and Julian Doroszczuk’s return to the Protyre Asphalt Rally Championship began with them understeering their normally-aspirated Cosworth-engined Drockspeed Motorsport Escort Mk2 off the road on SS2 and getting stuck in a hedge for almost three minutes. Their chances of a full fightback were curtailed somewhat when the last three stages were cancelled before they had the chance to tackle them at speed.

Handling problems prevented Jonathan Stepney from pushing his 1.9-litre engined Griffiths/Gavin Griffiths Group-backed Peugeot 205 GTi as hard as he’d have liked. Partnered by Aled Davies, the Perth-based Welshman enjoyed a good run and now shares the class B12 lead with Mike Pugsley.

Brad Cole/Jamie Vaughan have taken the lead in class B13 and are a close second in the Ford Escort Challenge after a good run in their 2.5-litre Smith & Jones powered Hydroline Solutions Escort Mk2.

Mark Holmes/Mark Perryman went off on Friday night and damaged a front wing on their Ford Fiesta S2000, which made for a bit of a nervous restart on Saturday morning. They put medium compound Michelin tyres on for the afternoon and flew over the later daylight stages to also score maximum class B14 points.

Defending class B14 champion Adrian Spencer, who was partnered this time by Ashley Trimble, has taken the class B14 lead after another great run in his RED Industries Subaru Impreza WRX. Paul Kirtley/David Jones survived an early off, which damaged the front of their Subaru Impreza WRC and dented their confidence. They fought back to score their first class B14 points of the season. 

A class winning performance by Gareth Bevan/Dafydd Evans in their Blue Sky-backed Ford Escort RS has given the Gareth James Motorsport crew the lead in the Historic category.

Craig Jones/Ian Taylor lost a minute and a half on SS1 when an intercooler pipe burst on their RHL/CMJ Motors Ford Fiesta 4×4 and then retired on SS5 when the rear differential failed. 

Chris Ford/Matthew Daniels crashed their Ford Fiesta Rally2 on SS5, while Anth Eaton/Ian Jackson also retired their Autotest Ford Fiesta R5+.

William Mains/Emily Easton-Page got caught out on a very fast bump which flicked their WCS/Roy Thomas & Son-sponsored Vauxhall Nova sideways and into a hedge, before rolling and coming to rest upside-down in the middle of the road.

Having won class N3 on Epynt, Johnnie Mackay was looking forward to another good run, this time on home soil. Co-driven by Michael Cruickshank, the reigning Scottish junior champion unfortunately retired his ISS/Kewtech Ford Fiesta ST on the opening stage.

Live action and driver interviews from the Jim Clark Rally are available to view on the Protyre Asphalt Rally Championship Facebook page, with commentary from Mark James.

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.

Round 3 of the 2022 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship is the Dunoon presents Argyll Rally on 24/25 June.

Jim Clark Rally – top 10 registered 2022 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship finishers: 
1. James Williams/Dai Roberts (Hyundai i20 R5)….50mins 25.1secs
2. Ruairi Bell/Max Freeman (Škoda Fabia R5)….52mins 17.2secs
3. Steve Wood/Dale Bowen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC)….52mins 33.5secs
4. Mark Kelly/Neil Colman (Ford Fiesta R5+)….52mins 48.6secs
5. Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5)….52mins 54.8secs
6. Stephen Simpson/Neil Shanks (Ford Fiesta Rally2)….52mins 58.8secs
7. Neil Roskell/Andrew Roughead (Ford Fiesta R5+)….53mins 04.7secs
8. John Stone/Laura Connell (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5)….54mins 18.6secs
9. Darren Atkinson/Philip Sandham (Ford Escort Mk2)….55mins 28.0secs
10. Mark Holmes/Mark Perryman (Ford Fiesta S2000)….57mins 26.5secs

2022 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship – top 6 drivers’ overall after Round 2:
1. Ruairi Bell….58pts
2. James Williams….57pts
3. Mark Kelly….54pts
4. Steve Wood….52pts
5. John Stone….48pts
6. Stephen Simpson….48pts

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