Stone puts himself firmly back in the Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship title race

Stone puts himself firmly back in the Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship title race

24 Jul

By Tom Boote

John Stone scored maximum points at the Carryduff Forklift Down Rally in his Legend Fires-backed Ford Fiesta WRC, re-igniting his championship title challenge.

The Blackburn driver accompanied by his co-driver by Jack Morton, was fastest out of the blocks on a wet and slippery opening stage opening-up an immediate advantage over arch rival Damian Cole, who immediately set about fighting back in an almighty battle between the two after an over-cautious start.

Stone lost a slight bit of momentum on SS2 when a software issue with the new boost pack on his ex-Mikko Hirvonen car made it feel down on power and Cole began his fight back.  However, at the end of a tricky opening loop of three stages, Stone retained his lead.

With both cars back to full speed in time for the all-important middle loop of five stages, Cole attempted to put the pressure on Stone and sneak the victory. However, his efforts were in vain as he couldn’t quite regain all the time he had lost in the early stages. Just 13.8 seconds separated the battling pair as they headed into the final 16.85 mile loop, which contained a repeat of the three longest stages.

As Cole pushed even harder, Stone gained control of the gap to take a very well-earned maximum points haul. The result moves Stone up to sixth in the overall drivers’ standings which makes him a serious title contender as the ‘two scores to drop’ rule will count in his favour on the final two events.

A torrential overnight storm left the opening loop of stages very wet and slippery but despite this unusual weather, Cole could not understand how he’d dropped so much time on the opening stage. It was telling as he and co-driver Paul Spooner flew over the remaining ten stages, and whilst only a handful of seconds separated Cole and Stone all event, the six-time Asphalt champion eventually finished second, just 16 seconds behind, in his Get Connected/Energizer-backed Fiesta WRC.

John Devlin might be a local man who knows the stages well, but his performance in his Escort Mk2 was nonetheless outstanding. Re-united with his normal co-driver John McCarthy, the Banbridge driver charged through a waterlogged opening stage and pressed on when the roads quickly dried in the warm breeze to score third place, and maximum class, points. While Devlin leads the B11 drivers’ category, Ashley Trimble heads the co-drivers’ section, having navigated successfully for David Armstrong (Escort Mk2).

 “This is an absolutely brilliant result for us. We’ve driven within ourselves all day, the car’s been superb – it didn’t feel right on stage two, but apart from that is was really good – and it’s been a great event. Damian [Cole] is a formidable opponent and he’s very difficult to beat, and I don’t often do it, so I’m really pleased with this result. At the end of the day, the car is prepared next to where we make our gas fires by the lads who work in the factory, so it’s not a professional rally team operation. So to score a result like this makes it great for them too.”

John Stone | 1st Place

“It was a shame I was so poor on the opening stage, I don’t know what happened but it was a terrible stage time! We did well from stage two onwards, but we just couldn’t get back the time that John [Stone] took out of us on the opening stage, and ultimately that’s what cost us maximum points. Looking at the Asphalt Championship, Jason [Pritchard] has to finish both the remaining events, so there is a bit of pressure on him, and all we can do now is go out and try to win the Mewla Rally and take the battle for the title down to the final round on the Cheviot.”

Damian Cole | 2nd Place

“Finishing third in the Asphalt Championship certainly exceeds all our expectations, but it is our home rally and I do know the stages quite well. That said, I’m very pleased with our result. The first stage was slippery and very challenging, but despite the standing water we got through it okay, and the car has ran faultlessly all day. We’ve had a good result on the Manx National and now here, so we’ll have to wait and see if we come over for the Mewla. The last round on Otterburn I can’t do, as I’m getting married the next day!”

John Devlin | 3rd Place

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2019 Carryduff Forklift Down Rally

Top Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship overall finishers

Position Driver Car Time
1 John Stone/Jack Morton Ford Fiesta WRC 47mins 27.1secs
2 Damian Cole/Paul Spooner Ford Fiesta WRC 47mins 43.1secs
3  John Devlin/John McCarthy Ford Escort Mk2 48mins 21.6secs
4 Ross Brusby/Dave Robson Ford Escort Mk2 48mins 49.7secs
5 Wayne Sisson/Michael Hendry Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 48mins 53.0secs
6 Alan Kirkaldy/Richard Crozier Ford Fiesta R5 49mins 09.5secs
7 Darren Atkinson/Phil Sandham Ford Escort Mk2 50mins 10.3secs
8 James Ford/Michael Gilbey Ford Escort Mk2 50mins 10.4secs
9 Chris Ford/Neil Colman Ford Fiesta R5 51mins 04.9secs
10 Dai Roberts/Pete Phennah Peugeot 205 GTi 52mins 30.3secs


2019 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship

Provisional overall driver points after Round 5

Position Driver Points
1 Damian Cole 136 pts
2 Alan Kirkaldy 104 pts
3 Darren Atkinson 97 pts
4 Wayne Sisson 95 pts
5 Jason Pritchard 91 pts
6 John Stone 87 pts
7 Mike Pugsley 81 pts
8 Chris Ford 80 pts
9 John Devlin 68 pts
10 William Mains 64 pts

The Championship’s television crew broadcast stage-side action and driver interviews live from the event. All the footage from the Rathfriland MC and Ballynahinch & DMC-organised Down Rally will remain available to view on the Special Stage Facebook page with commentary by Howard Davies and Gemma Watson.

The sixth and penultimate round of the 2019 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship is the Old Forge Garage Mewla Rally on Sunday 25th August.


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