Callum Black has closed in on the lead of the 2023 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship after becoming the first driver this year to win more than one round – with his second victory of the season coming on the Dunoon presents Argyll Rally (23/24 June).
Despite not having driven his Pallas Connections Ford Fiesta Rally2 on wet asphalt before, nor in fact any four-wheel drive rally car, the Brackley driver led after a tricky opening leg – surviving a little off into a ditch towards the end of Leg 1’s final stage.
Co-driven by Jack Morton, Black increased his 11 second overnight advantage to a winning margin of 56 seconds by the end of the 14 stage/65.54 stage mile event with what was – apart from getting stuck in the last chicane in the last stage, stalling the engine and having to reverse twice – a clean run.
Black remains second in the overall Protyre Asphalt drivers’ standings, having closed the gap to 15 points. However, he has already dropped one of the compulsory two scores, putting him in a strong position.
“It was a brilliant weekend up in Dunoon with Jack [Morton] and the team, and I’m really happy to come away with the win and another maximum points haul in the Protyre Asphalt Rally Championship,” said Black.
“It was a very tricky rally, with lots to catch you out. The horrific weather on Friday night, matched with darkness, was a real test. But we came out of the fourteen-mile stage with a solid lead and managed to grow that to just shy of a minute by the end of the rally.
“Thank you to the organisers and all the marshals who stood out in the cold and rain, it’s really appreciated.
“And thank you Steve Black and all at 586 Sports for a brilliant car, which is an absolute joy to drive.”
Neil Roskell maintains his Protyre Asphalt lead after finishing an excellent second in Argyll and has amassed an impressive 129 points after five straight high scoring finishes. Co-driven by Andrew Roughead, last year’s series runner-up also enjoyed a fast and trouble-free run, while ATM Sport won the Dynamic Fluids Best Presented Car Award, as selected by Protyre Asphalt scrutineer Geoff Doe, for its immaculately prepared ND Civils/Burdens/Witham Motorsport Ford Fiesta Rally2.
Will Hill celebrated his 30th birthday weekend in style by scoring his first Protyre Asphalt overall podium result and moving up to third in the overall driver standings after a magnificent run in his Hills Ford Fiesta Rally3. Co-driven by Richard Crozier, they knew that the twisty and technical closed Scottish lanes would suit their four-wheel drive 1.5 litre EcoBoost engine car and they maximised that opportunity in the wet. It was also Hill’s second class B14 win in a row, allowing him to extend his lead.
David Wright/Paula Swinscoe were second after Leg 1 after an excellent opening six stages in their Fix Auto/Grove Hill Garage Ford Fiesta R5. An engine problem forced them out on day two – although with two scores already dropped, they can now count every point they score on the remaining three rounds and remain a serious title challenge.
Hopes of winning the title are sadly over for David Henderson. Having led the series after winning the opening round, he and co-driver Chris Lees effectively picked up their third non-points score after crashing their Keco/PAR Petroleum-backed Ford Fiesta Rally2 out in Argyll.
John Stone suffered a high-speed fifth-gear accident in his Legend Fires Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 on SS6. The stage was stopped and co-driver Laura Connell taken to the nearby Dunoon Hospital, where she was released with bumps and bruises, but fortunately nothing broken.
Hugh Brunton/Drew Sturrock also had a dramatic end to their event after rolling their PM Print Škoda Fabia Rally2, while Chris Ford/Rob Fagg (Citroën C3 Rally2) also retired on Leg 1.
Wayne Sisson/Peredur Davies had a good run in their AMS Arnside Motorsport Mitsubishi Evo 10, finishing sixth best Protyre Asphalt crew overall and second in class B14 (behind Hill) to move up to third in the class standings.
Lee and Cole Hastings had intermitted electrical issues in their John Gibson & Sons-backed Subaru Impreza, but still took home seventh best Protyre Asphalt points. They remain second in class B14.
Joe McKeand/Charlotte McDowall struggled to find a rhythm in their Madcan Energy-backed Subaru Impreza, but their persistence was rewarded with eighth best Protyre Asphalt crew as the Dumfries driver maintains his class B14 challenge.
Steven Ormond-Smith/Dafydd Evans made it to the finish in their ORMCO Accounts/Manx Rally Sport Mitsubishi Evo 9, despite a diff pump not working all event. It contributed to them hitting a wall on Leg 1 and losing over a minute and their unusually low finishing position has dented their class B14 title hopes.
It was a good event for Anth Eaton/Ian Jackson, as they scored their first Protyre Asphalt top 10 result of the season in their Autotest Ford Fiesta R5.
There was an extraordinary close battle for top 2WD honours between Darren Atkinson/Mark Twiname (Haldane Fisher Escort Mk2) and Brad Cole/Neil Colman (Hydroline Solutions 2.5-litre Escort Mk2). Cole held a nine second advantage at the end of Leg 1 but thought that the car felt a bit loose on Leg 2 – as he went on to pick up fifth place Protyre Asphalt points. Brilliant driving by Atkinson, however, saw him collect fourth place points – beating Cole by just one second! The Lancaster driver moves from seventh to fourth in the overall standings and extends his class B13 lead.
Gerry Fitzelle/Mark Mason had an excellent event, coming home ninth in the overall Protyre Asphalt standings and third in class B14 in their Bothmans Escort Mk2 – having survived a massive moment on SS7. Mark Holmes/Mark Perryman finished fourth in class, despite steering problems with their Mark Holmes Auto Engineering Escort Mk2. Andy Scott/Ian Robertson were fifth in class in their P.A.C.E. Escort Mk2, finishing ahead of David Cluckie/Ealish Baxter (ORMCO Accounts BMW 325).
Michael Harbour/Ian MacDougall continue to lead class B11 after maintaining their 100% podium finishing record this year with another class victory in their VS Pro Pressure Washing Services/Miller Waste Water Escort Mk2. The Ayr driver also leads the Escort Challenge.
Jonathan Stepney/Aled Davies finished second in class in their Griffiths Group/Motorhome Services Scotland-backed Renault Clio Sport 2.0 16v, while Mal Boyd/Brian Stubbs completed the B11 podium in their Ford Escort Mk2.
Mark Booth/Callum Young made a successful return to the championship, finishing fourth in class B11 in their Escort. Nick Heard/Oliver Mathison finished fifth, despite putting their Ginetta G40 off the road, Mick Quinn/Chris Walker finished seventh in their 2-litre CS Motorsport Developments Renault Clio, while Antony Allery/Richard Bonner retired after hitting a wall in their Escort Mk2.
Ashleigh Morris (co-driven by Steve Harris) scored maximum B10 points in her Three Brand-backed Ford Fiesta R200 to tie for the class lead with Lewis Gatt.
Sam Adams didn’t settle into the event like he normally does. Co-driven by Michael Johnston, the reigning Northern Ireland Junior rally champion still won class B12 and scored top Fuchs Lubricants / OnThePaceNote supported Protyre Asphalt Junior points (to lead both classes) in his Pinto-engined Escort Mk2.
Archie Swinscoe/Jane Nicol crashed their Rallytech Composites/Asset Alliance Group Opel Adam midway through day two, although the 19-year-old driver still leads class R2.
Graham Muter/Steve Hallmark were the top BTRDA Historic Asphalt Cup crew home, winning that and class H8 in their Escort Mk2.
Action from the Argyll Rally is available to view on the Special Stage TV Facebook and You Tube pages, with commentary from Mark James and special guest presenter Phil Sandham.
Round 6 of the 2023 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship is the Carryduff Forklift Down Rally on Saturday 22 July.
More information on the Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship is available at: asphaltrallying.com.
Argyll Rally – top 10 registered 2023 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship finishers:
1. Callum Black/Jack Morton (Ford Fiesta Rally2)….56mins 49secs
2. Neil Roskell/Andrew Roughead (Ford Fiesta Rally2)….57mins 45secs
3. William Hill/Richard Crozier (Ford Fiesta Rally3)….1hr 00mins 53secs
4. Darren Atkinson/Mark Twiname (Ford Escort Mk2)….1hr 01mins 11secs
5. Brad Cole/Neil Colman (Ford Escort Mk2)….1hr 01mins 12secs
6. Wayne Sisson/Peredur Davies (Mitsubishi Evo 10)….1hr 01mins 21secs
7. Lee Hastings/Cole Hastings (Subaru Impreza)….1hr 01mins 40secs
8. Joe McKeand/Charlotte McDowall (Subaru Impreza)….1hr 02mins 15secs
9. Gerry Fitzelle/Mark Mason (Ford Escort Mk2) )….1hr 02mins 48secs
10. Anthony Eaton/Ian Jackson (Ford Fiesta R5)….1hr 03mins 20secs
2023 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship – top 6 drivers’ overall after Round 5:
1. Neil Roskell….129pts
2. Callum Black….114pts
3. Will Hill….107pts
4. Darren Atkinson….93pts
5. David Wright….85pts
6. Gerry Fitzelle….74pts