2019 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship Review

2019 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship Review

27 Feb

By Paul Evans

Jason Pritchard secured back-to-back Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship titles by the smallest of margins, beating arch-rival Damian Cole to the trophy by just one point after a thrilling and hard fought season.

The final round on Otterburn was billed as a winner takes all showdown, a head-to-head bout between reigning champion Prichard and six time champion Cole to determine which Welsh town the trophy would be heading to – Builth Wells or Abergavenny. But nobody expected a Scotsman to influence the destination of the title, as St Andrews driver Alan Kirkaldy won the Ford Parts Cheviot Stages Rally in his Fiesta R5 – beating the pair of Ford World Rally Cars drivers and creating one of the closest Championship finishes ever.

So close was the title fight heading into the final round that it could easily all be decided on a tiebreak. Cole, who led the series going into the final event, set the fastest time on the Cheviot’s opening stage – meaning a tiebreak would go in his favour.

Cole, who had local and 2018 Cheviot Rally winning co-driver Andrew Roughead with him, continued his great start – until he lost second gear in his Get Connected/Energizer-backed Ford Fiesta WRC.

Pritchard had problems of his own, with an intermittent misfire in his North Road Garage Focus WRC05 making it feel more like a Group N car. Co-driven by Phil Clarke, he pressed on to finish third – but with Cole ahead of him and in a battle for victory, his defence of the Asphalt title was on a knife-edge.

Alan Kirkaldy had taken full advantage of the somewhat wounded prey and was driving brilliantly to lead the Cheviot in his Cairnsmill Caravan Park-backed Ford Fiesta R5. Co-driven by Cameron Fair, he withstood a big push by Cole on the final stage to score a richly deserved event win, leaving Cole in second and Pritchard third.

You’d have thought that by leading the Championship coming into the final round, and finishing the final event ahead of your nearest rival, that that would be enough to give Cole the title. But the scores to drop rule proved otherwise, and whilst victory would have given Cole his seventh Asphalt title, second didn’t – and he ultimately lost the Championship by three seconds, which was the gap between first and second places on the Cheviot.

For Pritchard and Clarke, it is their fifth major national rally title in as many years, after winning the British Historic Rally Championship a record-breaking three times in a row (2015, ’16 and ’17) and the Asphalt Rally Championship twice (2018 and ’19).

“It was a hard year,” said Jason. “After winning the opening three rounds we were leading in Belgium before we had a problem with the brakes and then family commitments meant that I couldn’t go to Ireland. We came back, we had a few problems with the car, but I kept my head thanks to Phil. On the Cheviot the car felt like a Group N car, but we kept plugging away and got there in the end.

“It’s a great family team and I have to thank mum and dad for allowing me to drive a car like a Focus WRC – I really can’t thank them enough and these two titles are for them. I also have to thank Phil for sitting next to me. There aren’t many people I trust to co-drive and I don’t want to do a rally if Phil can’t sit next to me because I appreciate the huge effort he puts in. Without him I would not have won five national championships in the last five years. And I have to thank the boys who service for us. We are a very small team on a very limited budget, and everyone pulls together and works so hard to make this happen.”

“Jason is awesome at making pace notes – we can drive over a new road once on a recce and then the next time it’s at full speed on the rally and the notes are absolutely spot on. I take my hat off to him,” added Phil. “He’s an absolute pleasure to sit next to and co-drive for.”

John Stone finished third in the overall drivers’ category after a strong season in his ex-Mikko Hirvonen Legend Fires-backed Ford Fiesta WRC. The Blackburn driver scored maximum points on the Carryduff Folklift Down Rally and was always in contention for top honours, even on unfamiliar territory like Epynt. And the 2020 series will start a lot closer to home – on his local event that he sponsors, the Legend Fires North West Stages on 20/21 March.

Kirkaldy finished a fantastic fourth in the overall drivers’ standings and won the R5 category, beating Chris Ford and David Hardie to the class title.

Darren Atkinson was the top-placed overall two-wheel drive contender after a truly brilliant season in is Atkinsons Sandblasting/Dennison Trailers/S&W Fabrication-backed Ford Escort Mk2. The Lancaster driver was fantastic to watch and, together with co-driver Phil Sandham scored some amazing results – like sixth on the Old Forge Garage Mewla Rally, which was his first visit to Epynt since 2014. Atkinson also won the class B13 title, beating tough competition from Ross Brusby, while Mark Jasper, Spencer Chard, James Ford and John MacNiven were tied for third.

Chris Ford finished sixth in the overall drivers’ standings in his Century Autosport-tuned Ford Fiesta R5, one place ahead of Rhidian Daniels. Co-driven by Tomos Whittle, the JJ Aggregates-supported Citroën C1 Max driver also claimed the class B10 title, after a great season-long battle with Adrian Drury/Cat Lund in their ‘pocket-rocket’ Drury Deliveries-backed Peugeot 106 GTi.

Wayne Sisson finished eighth in his immaculate AMS Arnside Motorsport Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10, one place ahead of John Devlin – who had an outstanding season in his Escort Mk2. Having won the B11 class on the Masterpixel Media Manx National Rally – the first time he had contested the event as a driver – Devlin repeated that victory on his home Down Rally before the Banbridge man won his class again, and finished seven overall, on his first ever visit to Epynt! Devlin beat some extremely strong opposition to win the class B11 title, not least Geoff Glover (who has now contested 105 rounds of the Asphalt Rally Championship in his self-built RWD Astra), Phil Turner (Escort Mk2), Graham Hollis (Escort Mk2), Richard Merriman (Darrian T9) and Paul Doroszcuk – who’s challenge for the title was curtailed by engine problems in his normally-aspirated Cosworth-powered Escort Mk2.

Mike Pugsley completed the top 10 in the overall drivers’ standings. Co-driven by Marc Clatworthy, the Welshman also won the class B12 title for a second year in a row, after another fantastic season in his Escort Mk1 RS2000. Despite the car being originally built in 1974, it hasn’t failed to finish an event for over three years.

William Mains and his co-driver Claire Williams dominated the 1400cc category in their Ray Thomas & Sons/WCS Environmental-backed Vauxhall Nova. The phrase ‘giant-killing’ is often used, but as an example of their exceptional speed and commitment they finished 21st overall on the opening Tour of Epynt round, coming home just nine seconds behind a Subaru Impreza WRC and winning their class by seven and a half minutes!

Ashley Trimble navigated for Graham Hollis, John Devlin and Adrian Spencer to win the class B11 co-drivers’ title, while Ian Taylor teamed up with Oli Hopkins to clinch the B14 co-drivers’ title.

All rounds of the 2019 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship were broadcast live by the Special Stage team. Together with the audience figures obtained in 2018, the Championship has been watched by over a million people in two years – and the live web-streaming service will continue to play a significant role in the promotion of the series in 2020.
 

2019 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship

Top 10 overall drivers

Position

Driver

Points

1st

Jason Pritchard

145 pts

2nd

Damian Cole

144 pts

3rd

John Stone

136 pts

4th

Alan Kirkaldy

136 pts

5th

Darren Atkinson

121 pts

6th

Chris Ford

105 pts

7th

Rhidian Daniels

102 pts

8th

Wayne Sisson

95 pts

9th

John Devlin

91pts

10th

Pugsley

83pts

* best five scores count

Top 10 overall co-drivers

Position

Co-Driver

Points

1st

Phil Clarke

145 pts

2nd 

Cameroon Fair

139 pts

3rd

Phil Sandham

135 pts

4th

Ashlet Trimble

125 pts

5th

Tomos Whittle

117 pts

6th

Neil Colman

116 pts

7th

Jack Morton

115 pts

8th

Marc Clatworthy

105 pts

9th

Keith Barker

99 pts

10th

Claire Williams

79 pts

* best five scores count

Class winners

B10
Driver: Rhidian Daniels
Co-driver: Tomos Whittle
 
B11
Driver: John Devlin
Co-driver: Ashley Trimble
 
B12
Driver: Mike Pugsley
Co-driver: Marc Clatworthy
 
B13
Driver: Darren Atkinson
Co-driver: Phil Sandham
 
B14
Driver: Wayne Sisson
Co-driver: Ian Taylor
 
B15
Driver: Jason Pritchard
Co-driver: Phil Clarke
 
R5
Driver: Alan Kirkaldy
Co-driver: Cameron Fair
 
1400
Driver: William Mains
Co-driver: Claire Williams
 

Other Awards

Tony Davies Memorial Award
Geoff Glover
 
Nicky Grist Motorsports Award
William Mains and Claire Williams
 
Fairfield Motorsport Award
Adrian Drury and Cat Lund

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