Cole takes full advantage of Pritchard’s misfortune in the Rally van Wervik
Damian Cole and Co-driver, Dale Bowen, staked their claim as leading Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship contenders. The pair finished eighth overall in the Rally van Wervik, the result propelling them into the Protyre MSA Aspahlt Rally Championship lead as a result.
After completing the first three stages, Cole couldn’t believe he had kept his Ford Fiesta WRC on the road as following early morning rain, the stages were so slippery, particularly the third test and he was forced to give second best to Jason Pritchard, the Championship leader.
However, a slight tweak to the suspension proved a masterstroke as the adjustment transformed the car and he overtook Pritchard for the lead of the Protyre Asphalt crews. Cole then further extended his lead over the third group of stages, although admitting that it was “hard work” due to the change in conditions, which were now hot and dry, a stark contrast from the opening stages. There were no dramas for Cole and Bowen over the final loop as they finished in Wervik town with a lead of just under 16 seconds to take home the Championship honours on the day.
Reigning Championship leaders prior to the start of the event, Jason Pritchard & Co-driver, Phil Clarke, elected to use their Ford Fiesta S2000, rather than the Focus WRC they have campaigned on earlier Championship rounds and their choice proved a good one as they finished the first loop as the leading crew. Unfortunately, after slipping behind Cole in the second loop, the pair were then forced to retire from the event following brake problems.
Fastest of the Protyre crews on the first special stage were Hugh Hunter/Rob Flagg who were only four seconds off the overall fastest time in their Focus WRC, but unfortunately the crew spun the Ford on a very slippery left-hand bend on stage two were forced to retire.
John Stone was competing in his first Belgium rally and he and Co-driver, Jack Morton, didn’t disappoint with a strong start in their usual Legend Fires Fiesta WRC. Following a good start, Stone opted to put extra cuts in his tyres to cope with the slippery conditions and opted to soften the suspension. With the car then tweaked to satisfaction, Stone managed to better Cole on two of the final three special stages and he was rewarded with second championship contender and ninth place overall.
Darren Atkinson and Co-driver, Phil Sandham, were not so happy in the early stages of the Rally van Werwik. Fresh from a good run on the recent Masterpixel Media Manx National Rally, Atkinson’s incorrect choice of slicks for the first loop and wet tyres in the second one meant he wasn’t as competitive as he expected to be in his Ford Escort Mk2 and almost slid into a ditch on special stage five.
However, as the day wore on, tyre choice became more straightforward and he managed to increase his pace. A push in the final loop ensured Atkinson was the first two-wheel drive car home, as he took the final place on the Championship podium, finishing in the top 20 overall.
Damian Cole, 1st: “This is the first time I’ve driven the Fiesta WRC since the Mewla Rally last year, and it’s much better now we’ve had the fifth injector removed. The first loop [of stages] was horrendous, I’ve never driven anything as slippery as stage three. It was much more enjoyable when we had grip, and I need more practice in taking cut on mud and grass.”
John Stone 2nd: “I’ve really enjoyed the event, this being my first time in Belgium. I can’t explain the cuts, but I seem to have been getting quicker and quicker all day, and the battle with Damian Cole has been good. I didn’t know how much I would enjoy it, but I really did.”
Darren Atkinson, 3rd: “You wouldn’t have believed it this morning, the tyres that we were on. To get to the end when so many haven’t means we haven’t done so bad. We’ve done some good stage times, and the cancelling of stage two helped us, as we probably would have gone off as we were running on slicks. We nursed it through the last three stages, though I’ve enjoyed myself despite suffering from a cold this week.”
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2019 WOODSTOXX – MOTUL Rally van Wervik
Top Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship overall finishers
||Damian Cole/Dale Bowen
||Ford Fiesta WRC
||John Stone/Jack Morton
||Ford Fiesta WRC
||Darren Atkinson/Phil Sandham
||Ford Escort Mk 2
||Amaury Molle/Renaud Herm
||Peugeot 208 R2
||Spencer Chard/Dave Tortoishell
||Chris Ford/Matt Daniels
||Ford Fiesta R5
||Rhidian Daniels/Tomos Whittle
||Citroen C1 Max
||Mike Pugsley/Marc Clatworthy
||Ford Escort Mk 1 RS 2000
||Adrian Drury/Cat Lund
||Peugeot 106 GTI
Provisional overall driver points after Round 4
2019 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship
Two camera crews and a drone captured some stunning live action footage from the event, all of which is still available to view on the Special Stage Facebook page
Round 6 of the Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship is the Carryduff Forklift Down Rally on Saturday 20th July, 2019.
2019 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship Regulations and Entry Forms are available to download at: asphaltrallying.com
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