Steve Wood has taken the lead of the Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship at a crucial time in the 2022 series, after a skilful performance on the Get Connected Rali Ceredigion (3/4 September).
It was James Williams who took maximum points on the Aberystwyth-based closed road event in his Michelin-shod JDS Machinery Hyundai i20N Rally2 – becoming the first driver this year to score top marks more than once. What’s more, the result gives his navigator Dai Roberts the lead in the overall Protyre Asphalt co-drivers’ standings.
The west Wales duo finished 1 min 53.1 secs ahead of Ruairi Bell/Max Freeman, who picked up second-placed points in their Pirelli-shod Inspira-backed Škoda Fabia R5.
However, third-placed points are enough to give Wood the overall lead in the Protyre Asphalt Championship, after another sensational performance in his City East Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
Co-driven by Dale Bowen, the local driver mastered the extremely challenging 85-stage mile route with a solid drive through Saturday night’s dark stages and a full day of flat-out competition on Sunday over the drying roads of the Cambrian Mountains.
Wood now heads to the penultimate round of the series with a three-point advantage, having knocked the absent John Stone off the top spot.
Neil Roskell has dropped down to third in the drivers’ standings after he and Andrew Roughead retired their ND Civils/Burdens Ford Fiesta R5+ after breaking a driveshaft leaving the start line of SS5 – which was the 17-mile Llanfihangel stage, which opened Sunday’s action.
He remains very much a title contender, as does Mark Kelly who – together with Neil Colman on the route notes – scored fourth-placed points in his Roccia Tiles & Bathrooms/Tilemaster Global Škoda Fabia R5+. Whilst Wood, Stone and Roskell have dropped one score, Kelly has already dropped his mandatory two scores – and whilst the pressure is on to finish the last two rounds, unlike his rivals he can count both scores.
One of the stars of the 2022 Protyre Asphalt season is Brad Cole. Despite admitting he’d struggled to commit on the night-time stages, that certainly wasn’t the case in daylight as flew to fifth-placed overall points in his Hydroline Solutions Escort Mk2. Co-driven by Jamie Vaughan (who is second in the overall co-drivers’ standings), Cole has extended his lead in both class B13 and the Ford Escort Challenge after once again coming home as the top two-wheel drive competitor.
William Mains (co-driven by Emily Easton-Page) won class B9 and took home to Llandysul sixth-placed overall points after another giant-killing performance in his WCS/Roy Thomas & Son-sponsored Vauxhall Nova.
There was more than a fair share of misfortune for a number of Protyre Asphalt crews, as the demands of Rali Ceredigion took its toll.
Triple Protyre Asphalt champions Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke rolled their North Road Garage/Get Jerky/J&S Handling-backed Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 into a field, Roger Moran/Den Golding were forced out with electrical problems in their Škoda Fabia R5+ and David Henderson/Chris Lees hit a bank after a heavy and awkward landing on SS10 and broke the rear suspension on their Michelin-shod Keco/PAR Petroleum-backed Ford Fiesta Rally2.
Defending class champion Adrian Spencer (co-driven on Rali Ceredigion by Ashley Trimble) continues to lead B14 in his RED Industries Subaru Impreza WRX, after none of the class title contenders finished the event.
Richard Clews remains second in class (with Carl Williamson leading the co-drivers’ section) despite a very rare off in his ITG Subaru Impreza STi, while Steven Ormond-Smith (navigated by Claire Williams) remains third despite coasting to a halt with low oil and fuel pressure in his new Manx Rally Sport-supported Proton Satria S2000
Lewis Gatt/Callum Young still lead class B10 despite retiring their Gatt Speed Ford Escort Mk2 on SS7 after hitting a fence and breaking a half shaft, while class B12 frontrunners Jonathan Stepney/Aled Davies were forced to withdraw their 1.9-litre engined Griffiths/Gavin Griffiths Group-backed Peugeot 205 GTi after the driver became unwell.
Others to retire included Chris Ford/Matt Daniels (clutch problems with their Citroën C3 Rally2), Olly Hunter/Dan May (HES Electrical Contractors-backed Ford Escort Mk2), Mark Holmes/Mark Perryman (Ford Fiesta S2000), Rob Tout/Terry Martin (punctures aboard their ABC Hire Services Mitsubishi Evo 10), Damian and Charly Cole (Get Connected Škoda Fabia R5+), Huw James/Dafydd Evans (Ford Escort Mk2) and Jay Stanley/Elgan Davies (Tina Pedro Boxers Escort Mk2).
Geoff Glover/Keith Barker suffered transmission problems in their Vauxhall Astra Mk3 but did pick up the Dynamic Fluids best-presented car award for their immaculate self-prepared rear-wheel drive car.
Live streamed action footage from the Rali Ceredigion (which received over 60,000 views during the event) remains available to view on the Special Stage TV Facebook page, with commentary from Mark James and special guest presenter Hugh Hunter.
Membership of the BTRDA can be done online at: btrdamembership.com.
Round 6 of the 2022 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship is the Hills Ford 3 Shires Stages on Sunday 18 September.
Rali Ceredigion – top registered 2022 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship finishers:
1. James Williams/Dai Roberts (Hyundai i20N Rally2)….1hr 22mins 00.0secs
2. Ruairi Bell/Max Freeman (Škoda Fabia R5)….1hr 23mins 53.1secs
3. Steve Wood/Dale Bowen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC)….1hr 25mins 37.6secs
4. Mark Kelly/Neil Colman (Škoda Fabia R5+)….1hr 27mins 32.2secs
5. Brad Cole/Jamie Vaughan (Ford Escort Mk2)….1hr 34mins 13.6secs
6. William Mains/Emily Easton-Page (Vauxhall Nova)….1hr 39mins 08.8secs
2022 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship – top 6 drivers’ overall after Round 5:
1. Steve Wood….110pts
2. John Stone….103pts
3. Neil Roskell….101pts
4. Brad Cole….100pts
5. James Williams….87pts
6. Ruairi Bell….86pts