Despite finishing third in 2021, second in 2022 and having led for most of 2023, Neil Roskell should not, even though he’s his own harshest critic, be disappointed about just missing out on the Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship drivers’ title again.
After all, the 53-year old Blackpool driver only made his rally debut in 2019 and in just five years has established himself as one of the UK’s top asphalt competitors.
A determination to keep learning and a desire to get better at every opportunity are the trademarks as to how Neil has mastered the UK’s most challenging closed road stages with very little single-venue and no previous road rallying experience.
Inevitably there have been a few dumps along the way. His final Protyre Asphalt act of 2023 was seeing if he could brake as late for a chicane on day two of Rali Ceredigion as the leading BRC drivers. It resulted in him retiring with a front-end impact damage to his ND Civils/Burdens/Witham Motorsport-backed Ford Fiesta Rally2 – and with amended braking distances registered for future use.
But event before he clattered into the chicane, Neil’s chances of becoming 2023 Protyre Asphalt championship were slim.
Despite having far less experience than all of his title rivals, Neil had taken the lead of the Protyre Asphalt Championship for the first time in his short career after Round 3 and had extended his advantage to 24 points going into the final Welsh double header.
But his consistently high run of results meant that he couldn’t add many points to his total (as the best six scores from eight rounds counted) and whilst he still led the drivers’ standings going into the final round, Callum Black only needed to finish day two (Round 8) to become champion.
“Callum is a faster driver, I’m happy to admit that – but for me the most important thing is that I’m getting better, faster and still learning,” says Neil.
“I was thirty seconds faster over a stage on the Isle of Man and on the Jim Clark than I had been the year before, so I’m happy with the progress I’m making.
“That said, I didn’t get a win in 2023. I think that shows that whilst my speed has gone up, so too has the pace in the Protyre Asphalt Championship.
“I’m tough on myself and I don’t like letting people down. If I’m not performing, it’s down to me. I beat myself up a lot, but that’s just the way I am. It’s my nature to push to be better.
“And I wouldn’t have got the results I have done without the support of my family, Andrew [Roughead, co-driver] and the team.”