Steve Wood has clinched the 2022 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship title after a battle royal on the final round of the series, the Best Cars Chris Kelly Memorial Manx Stages.
Co-driven by Dale Bowen, the Aberystwyth driver was lying third after an extremely wet and stormy start, which had seen rivers of water running down some sections of the famous Isle of Man stages on Friday’s opening two legs.
Despite a misfire in his City East Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Wood completed the third and final leg on a much drier Saturday to finish second – which was enough to secure him the UK’s premier sealed-surface title, the Protyre Trophy and prestigious BTRDA Gold Star award.
“I started to look at all the permutations in terms of where we needed to finish, and where others needed to finish, for us to become champions and gave up and just went for it – that seemed to be the best thing to do, and it all came good in the end,” said Wood.
“The only mistake we’ve done all season was on the Argyll Rally. There was no need for us to push as hard as we did, and I shouldn’t have done off. I’d have been kicking myself now if that had cost us the title – but thankfully it didn’t and I’m delighted.”
John Stone was in with a shout of the Protyre Asphalt title, but the Blackburn driver was slowed somewhat by an engine revving issue and then a gear linkage problem in his Legend Fires Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.
Along with co-driver Laura Connell, he finished the season with another strong third place points score and sportingly congratulated Wood on becoming a worthy champion.
Mark Kelly had also arrived on the Isle of Man with a chance of taking the title, although little else than victory would have been enough. Together with co-driver Neil Colman, he led after the opening stage, completing SS1 a full five seconds quicker than anyone else. Unfortunately, an accident on the following test put his Roccia Tiles & Bathrooms/Tilemaster Global Škoda Fabia R5+ out of the event and ended his title hopes.
Neil Roskell had been a title challenger all season, but the cancellation of the Hills Ford 3 Shires Stages had meant that he could no longer become champion. It made him even more determined to go out and take maximum Protyre Asphalt points on the Chris Kelly Memorial Manx Stages – which is exactly what he and co-driver Andrew Roughead.
They led the event overall after Friday night’s stages, despite it being the most challenging conditions they ever rallied in – with torrential rain, deep puddles of standing water and very little grip. They flew through Saturday’s stages to finish 1min 36secs ahead of Wood in a Protyre Asphalt display of what could have been.
In addition, Dan Hiorns from ATM Sport was presented with the Dynamic Fluids Best Presented Car award, for turning out Roskell’s immaculate Fiesta R5+.
Stephen Simpson/Patrick Walsh survived Friday’s stages unscathed and despite receiving a few notional times on Saturday, courtesy of a few crews ahead of them falling foul of the demanding roads, they were happy to finish the event having set top five stage times and take fourth place Protyre Asphalt points in their Tudor Glass Ford Fiesta Rally2. The result secured Simpson fourth place in the final drivers’ standings too.
Darren Atkinson/Phil Sandham picked up a magnificent fifth place points finish in their Atkinsons Sandblasting/S&W Fabrication-backed Escort Mk2. They were lucky to survive an off on SS2 which saw their car climb a bank and bend the steering, but thereafter they were on superb form.
They finished as the top two-wheel drive crew, with Atkinson an incredible fifth in the overall drivers’ standings and Sandham fourth in the overall co-driver’s table. It also secured the crew both the class B13 and Ford Escort Challenge titles.
Brad Cole/Jamie Vaughan led both class B13 and Ford Escort Challenge going into the final round, but because of the dropped scores rule they were looking for a win to secure the title. They ended Leg 1 in second place, just nine seconds off the lead, and headed into the Friday night stages confident of regaining the time. They’d done one night stage and booked into SS8 before their Hydroline Solutions Escort Mk2 refused to start, which was later found to be alternator failure. Retirement meant they finished runner-up in both class B13 and Ford Escort Challenge.
The event didn’t pan out as planned as Antony Allery/Jack Corlett had hoped for either. After they restarted after putting their Salter Demolition Ford Escort RS off the road, they retired again after suffering a very bad misfire.
Steven Ormond-Smith had a good run to finish sixth Protyre Asphalt contender. He and co-driver Dafydd Evans flew in their Manx Rally Sport-supported Mitsubishi Evo IX, despite the car only having a standard gearbox, to clinch the class B14 title.
With Jonathan Stepney/Aled Davies (Griffiths/Gavin Griffiths Group Peugeot 205 GTi) already confirmed as class B12 champions, Mike Pugsley/Marc Clatworthy were free to put their foot down in their 1974 Escort Mk1 RS2000 – which they did in some style to score their second class win of the season and secure the runners-up position.
Paul and Julian Doroszczuk are the Protyre Asphalt class B11 champions once again after an excellent run in their normally aspirated Cosworth engined Drockspeed Motorsport Escort Mk2. It might have only been their first class victory of the season, but when added to their other podium results it gives them a clear 10 point title winning advantage at the top of the table.
Olly Hunter (co-driven by Dan May) had been hoping to clinch the class B11 title but retiring his ES Electrical Contractors-backed Ford Escort Mk2 saw him drop from first to second in the points table.
Lewis Gatt/Callum Young made sure of the class B10 title after another stylish performance in their Gatt Speed Ford Escort Mk2, coming home safe and sound despite a clutch problem on the final leg.
William Mains made sure of the class B9 title. He’d built up an early lead, only for a throttle position sensor issue on his WCS/Roy Thomas & Son/Speedy Sofas/Mike Scaffolding-sponsored Vauxhall Nova to fail, costing six and a half minutes. Together with Aled Edwards, the Llandysul driver launched an amazing fightback to win the class on the event and secure the Protyre Asphalt title.
Dai Roberts had wrapped up the overall Protyre Asphalt co-driver’s championship before the Chris Kelly Memorial Manx Stages, allowing him the opportunity to drive his Peugeot 205 GTi. Navigated by Pete Phennah, his rally came to an end on the Roundtable stage with suspected engine failure.
Chris Ford/Matt Daniels also failed to reach the finish in their Citroën C3 Rally2.
Live streamed action footage from the event remains available to view on the Special Stage TV Facebook page, with commentary from Mark James and special guest presenters Nigel Cannell and Mark Perryman.
Over the course of the 2022 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship, the online streaming service has received over 1M hits.
Chris Kelly Memorial Manx Stages
Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship – top 10 overall finishers
1. Neil Roskell/Andrew Roughead (Ford Fiesta R5+)….1hr 55mins 54secs
2. Steve Wood/Dale Bowen (Ford Fiesta WRC)….1hr 57mins 30secs
3. John Stone/Laura Connell (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5)….1hr 58mins 17secs
4. Stephen Simpson/Patrick Walsh (Ford Fiesta Rally2)….2hr 01mins 07secs
5. Darren Atkinson/Phil Sandham (Ford Escort Mk2)….2hr 01mins 22secs
6. Steven Ormond-Smith/Dafydd Evans (Mitsubishi Evo IX)….2hr 08mins 14secs
7. Lewis Gatt/Callum Young (Ford Escort Mk2)….2hr 17mins 32secs
8. Paul Doroszczuk/Julian Doroszczuk (Ford Escort Mk2)….2hr 18mins 00secs
9. William Mains/Aled Edwards (Vauxhall Nova)….2hr 18mins 00secs
10. Mike Pugsley/Marc Clatworthy (Ford Escort Mk1 RS2000)….2hr 27mins 41secs
2022 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship
Final overall driver points:
1. Steve Wood….112pts
2. Neil Roskell….108pts
3. John Stone….108pts
4. Stephen Simpson….100pts
5. Darren Atkinson….95pts
6. James Williams….87pts
Final overall co-driver points:
1. Dai Roberts….117pts
2. Andrew Roughead….112pts
3. Dale Bowen…107pts
4. Phil Sandham…102pts
5. Dafydd Evans….97pts
6. Jamie Vaughan…93pts
Final class winning positions:
Junior and N3
Driver: Johnnie Mackay
Driver: William Mains
Driver: Lewis Gatt
Co-driver: Callum Young
Driver: Paul Doroszczuk
Co-driver: Julian Doroszczuk
Driver: Jonathan Stepney
Co-driver: Aled Davies
Driver: Darren Atkinson
Co-driver: Phil Sandham
Driver: Steven Ormond-Smith
Co-driver: Dafydd Evans
Driver: Steve Wood
Co-driver: Andrew Roughead
Co-driver: Dai Roberts
Driver: Darren Atkinson
Co-driver: Phil Sandham