Cole claims record-equalling Epynt victory to tee up a winner takes all Championship finale
Cole was accompanied by Co-driver, Paul Spooner, who had guided him to his first Mewla Rally win back in 2008. To celebrate his 60th Birthday Spooner, the experienced navigator ensured Cole achieved the same result, 11 years later. It was also the Abergavenny driver’s 23rd rally win on Epynt, equalling the all-time record also set by John Price, nearly 20 years ago.
Cole began the Epynt Motor Club organised event at a blistering pace, setting fastest time on each of the opening three stages to establish an impressive 13 second lead. He remained unbeaten for the first seven stages and by mid-day service had accumulated a 29 second lead. After the mid-day service Cole consolidated his advantage, maintaining his 29 second lead until finally easing off on the final loop of three stages. With all the hard work executed to perfection, Cole was confirmed winner finishing the rally with a 19 second advantage.
After the first three stages, Jason Pritchard, reigning Asphalt Rally Champion and last year’s Mewla Rally winner, was 23 seconds behind Cole in third. An incorrectly mapped ECU meant he lost valuable seconds when setting off from each stage start and despite the team attempting to fix the issue at each service halt, one resolution would be accompanied by another fault.
By mid-distance Pritchard had moved up to second but more electronic-related fuel pump and pressure problems, with the car sluggishly getting off the start line and then cutting out near the end of stages even cutting out right at the end of the final stage but thankfully the kept going. Claiming second place was an exceptional result under the circumstances.
Bob Fowden set a scorching pace in his Comline Auto Parts/NGK-backed Subaru Impreza WRC S11. Despite being the most-experienced crew, he and co-driver Den Golding might have been the most experienced crew on the event but they never stopped experimenting with settings in an effort to make the car handle even better. They finished third ending the event by setting fastest time on the final stage.
“It’s an honour to have now won as many Mewla rallies as John Price, and to have won as many rallies on Epynt as John as well. I never thought that when I started rallying and John was winning everything, that one day I’d equal his record. The car has been faultless all day. We’ve done a lot of work on the car’s set-up and the Fiesta WRC is now so much easier to drive. We’ve also re-mapped the throttle as well, so it’s not so aggressive as soon as you touch the pedal, and that’s made a big difference because the car is so much better in all the chicanes and tight corners. We’ve been fastest or joint fastest most of the day, which allowed us to back off on the last loop because by then we had a twenty-nine second lead and there was no point trying to be a hero. The sheep were starting to run about, and we eased off over the bigger jumps a bit. It makes the battle for the Asphalt Championship very interesting, because it’s winner takes all on the Cheviot now.”
Damian Cole | 1st
“We’ve not really had a clean stage, so it’s good to come home second after such a troublesome day – I think we can say that we’ve made the best of a bad situation. The power difference really showed today, because even without our issues, I think it would have been very difficult for us to beat Damian [Cole] today, because he’s got the ultimate car for Epynt. We were five second down just going through the German Village, it’s just point and squirt in there and there isn’t anything I can do about that. The fight for the Asphalt Championship title is down to the final round, and I hope it’s wet on Otterburn, because the power difference really told today.”
Jason Pritchard | 2nd
“The fire on the Manx National two years ago was a huge set-back, but we’ve finally got the Subaru working again. We finished second to Damian [Cole] on Epynt a few weeks ago and third here on the Mewla isn’t too bad – I’m quite happy with that. You certainly can’t blame the car! We have been experimenting with set-up all event and in most cases the stiffer bars that we have been using worked well. For the last three stages we tried an even stiffer rear bar and it didn’t work, it caused the car to understeer, so we weren’t as quick on the final three stages as we had been on the three prior to that, but we had to try a few different things. We have been pushing hard today. In all the years I’ve been rallying, I’ve never had a moment before on the Burma Road, but we did today!”
Bob Fowden | 3rd
As always, action from the stages was broadcast live during the event, with expert commentary and analysis from Howard Davies and Gemma Watson is available on the Special Stage Facebook page.
The final round of the 2019 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship is the overall title-deciding Ford Parts Cheviot Stages Rally, which takes place over the Otterburn ranges in Northumberland on Sunday 22 September.
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