Series leader Neil Roskell targets first Protyre MSUK Asphalt Rally Championship win of 2023 in Argyll
By Paul Evans
But it’s Neil Roskell who leads the overall drivers’ standings going into Round 5 of the eight-round series – despite not having won a round so far this year. And that’s something the Blackpool driver is keen to put right on the challenging Argyll and Bute closed roads, having finished second and third on the last two rounds respectively.
David Henderson won the opening round of this year’s series, the Reed Group East Riding Stages, and scored maximum points on last year’s Argyll Rally in his Keco/PAR Petroleum-backed Ford Fiesta Rally2. Having missed the double header Manx National Rally, the Oakenshaw driver is eighth in the points standings and able to, along with co-driver Chris Lees, count all their remaining scores in the run in to the end of the series, making them a very series title contender.
David Wright/Paula Swinscoe took home maximum points at the end of day one on the Isle of Man (Round 2) in their Fix Auto/Grove Hill Garage Ford Fiesta R5. The Lancaster driver is third in the overall points table and returns to Argyll for the first time since 2021, when he finished fourth.
Callum Black/Jack Morton honoured their promise to take overall victory on the Manx (on Black’s first asphalt rally for 10 years) to score maximum points on day two (Round 3) in their Pallas Connections Ford Fiesta Rally2. The Brackley driver is second in the points standings and his sensational current form sees him seeded at number one for his first appearance in Argyll.
James Ford/Neil Shanks scored maximum points on Round 4 of the Protyre Asphalt Championship, the Beatson’s Building Supplies Jim Clark Rally – but has elected to skip this round in his Citroën C3 Rally2.
But leading them all is Roskell and co-driver Andrew Roughead. They have been the measure of high-speed consistency in their ND Civils/Burdens/Witham Motorsport Ford Fiesta Rally2 this year – give or take a few moments, like ploughing through a field on the East Riding – and with two podium finishes lead the overall drivers’ and co-drivers’ standings by 17 points.
Hugh Brunton/Drew Sturrock made an impressive Protyre Asphalt debut on the Jim Clark, although their finishing position was compromised thanks to spending two minutes in a hedge on the penultimate stage. They’ll be one to watch again this time in their PM Print Škoda Fabia Rally2.
John Stone had a torrid Argyll Rally last year, with intercom problems on Leg 1 and an off on Leg 2 which saw spectators pushing his Legend Fires Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 back onto the road. He still left with the Protyre Asphalt Championship lead – and he’ll be hoping to strengthen his title challenge this time too, as he and co-driver Laura Connell start at car number nine.
Wayne Sisson/Peredur Davies will also be aiming for a top result in their AMS Arnside Motorsport Mitsubishi Evo 10, as will fellow top four-wheel drive contenders Steven Ormond-Smith/Dafydd Evans (ORMCO Accounts/Manx Rally Sport Mitsubishi Evo 9), Anth Eaton/Ian Jackson (Autotest Ford Fiesta R5), Lee and Cole Hastings (Subaru Impreza), Chris Ford/Rob Fagg (Citroën C3 Rally2) and Joe McKeand/Charlotte McDowall (Subaru Impreza).
One of the stars of this year’s Protyre Asphalt Championship have been Will Hill/Richard Crozier in their Hills Ford Fiesta Rally3. They lead class B14, but their incredible overall results puts Hill fourth in the overall drivers’ table, showing what a well-driven M-Sport-built four-wheel drive 1.5 litre EcoBoost engined 215bhp Fiesta Rally3 can achieve.
Only four seconds separated Brad Cole and Darren Atkinson on last year’s Argyll Rally, after an hour of flat-out competition. The two class B13 two-wheel drive stars will be battling hard again – with Atkinson (co-driven by Mark Twiname) leading the class this time in their Haldane Fisher Escort Mk2 and Cole and co-driver Neil Colman hoping for a clean run in their Hydroline Solutions 2.5-litre Escort Mk2.
Gerry Fitzelle is second in the class B13 points standings for drivers, while his partner Mark Mason leads the co-driver’s section. They be aiming to continue their great run of form in their Bothmans Escort Mk2 – and will be up against the likes of Mark Holmes/Mark Perryman (Mark Holmes Auto Engineering Escort Mk2), Andy Scott/Ian Robertson (P.A.C.E. Escort Mk2) and David Cluckie/Ealish Baxter (ORMCO Accounts BMW 325),
Michael Harbour/Ian MacDougall arrive leading class B11 in their VS Pro Pressure Washing Services/Miller Waste Water Escort Mk2. The Ayr driver is just one point ahead of Olly Hunter, who will be out to steal the lead with Matt Daniels in his HES Electrical Contractors Escort Mk2.
Another good score would put Mal Boyd/Brian Stubbs right back into the mix in their Ford Escort Mk2 as they arrive in Argyll third in class, while Antony Allery/Richard Bonner return in their Escort Mk2 after radiator and clutch problems forced them out of day one and two respectively on the Manx National. Mark Booth/Callum Young reappear in their Escort for the first time since gearbox failure put them out of the first round, Nick Heard/Oliver Mathison (Ginetta G40) are also back, while Mick Quinn/Chris Walker will have it all to do from near the back of the field having been seeded at car number 118 in their 2-litre CS Motorsport Developments Renault Clio.
Ashleigh Morris (co-driven by Steve Harris) scored maximum class B10 points last time out in his Three Brand-backed Ford Fiesta R200 – and another class win could see the Rugby driver tie for the class lead.
Archie Swinscoe/Jane Nicol will be aiming to make it four R2 class wins in a row in their Rallytech Composites/Asset Alliance Group Opel Adam. The 19-year-old driver from Chorley in Lancashire was F1000 Junior English and Scottish champion in 2021 and has been on great form this year in his rapid 1600cc car.
Swinscoe is also just four points behind Sam Adams in the battle for the Fuchs Lubricants / OnThePaceNote supported Protyre Asphalt Junior title. The reigning Northern Ireland Junior rally champion has also been on brilliant form in his maiden season in the series and, partnered by Michael Johnston, is well ahead in class B12 in his Pinto-engined Escort Mk2.
Class H8 leaders Graham Muter/Steve Hallmark will be aiming to strengthen their BTRDA Historic Asphalt Cup challenge in their Escort Mk2.
If any crew deserves a good clean run then it is surely Jonathan Stepney/Aled Davies. The reigning class B12 champions had to replace their Peugeot 205 GTi after a big crash on the opening round but have been plagued by technical and mechanical problems ever since in their new Griffiths Group/Motorhome Services Scotland-backed Renault Clio Sport 2.0 16v. Hopefully a few weeks in the workshop will have sorted the issues and they’ll be back to their normal class-winning and giant-killing speed again in Argyll.
Protyre Motorsport will take a large number of tyres to the Argyll Rally, including Pirelli, Michelin and Hoosier, and operate an on-event fitting service for all registered Championship contenders.
Special Stage TV will be live streaming the action from the event on its Facebook page.
Based at the Dunoon Stadium, this year’s Argyll Rally is longer than last year, with 14 stages totalling 65.54 stages miles, held over two legs. Leg 1 starts at 19:30 on Friday 23 June and goes straight into two runs over the popular Dunoon Town Centre stage, followed by the new Tarsan Dam stage, two runs of Kinlochruel in quick succession and finally the Otter Ferry stage which, at almost 14 miles, is the longest of the event and run in the dark. The first car is scheduled to finish Leg 1 at 22:54.
Leg 2 will start at 09:00 on Saturday 24 June and will feature a 19.81 mile loop of four stages (Glendaruel, Bealach Maim, Loch Fyne and Whistlefield) on the picturesque Cowal Peninsula, which will be repeated in the afternoon. The first car is scheduled to arrive at the finish at 16:52.
Having analysed data from the previous two events, Mull Car Club has been able to remove a significant number of chicanes without compromising the safety of the event.
More information on the Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship is available at: asphaltrallying.com – while membership of the BTRDA can be done online at: btrdamembership.com.
2023 Argyll Rally – top 10 seeded Protyre Asphalt starters
1. Callum Black/Jack Morton (Ford Fiesta Rally2)
2. David Wright/Paula Swinscoe (Ford Fiesta R5)
3. David Henderson/Chris Lees (Ford Fiesta Rally2)
5. Neil Roskell/Andrew Roughead (Ford Fiesta Rally2)
8. Hugh Brunton/Drew Sturrock (Škoda Fabia Rally2)
9. John Stone/Laura Connell (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5)
13. Wayne Sisson/Peredur Davies (Mitsubishi Evo 10)
23. Darren Atkinson/Philip Sandham (Ford Escort Mk2)
26. Brad Cole/Neil Colman (Ford Escort Mk2)
28. William Hill/Richard Crozier (Ford Fiesta Rally3)
Picture captions (from top left to bottom right):
James Ford/Neil Shanks (Citroën C3 Rally2)
David Henderson/Chris Lees (Ford Fiesta Rally2)
Neil Roskell/Andrew Roughead (Ford Fiesta Rally2)
Callum Black/Jack Morton (Ford Fiesta Rally2)
David Wright/Paula Swinscoe (Ford Fiesta R5)
Darren Atkinson/Mark Twiname (Ford Escort Mk2)
William Hill/Richard Crozier (Ford Fiesta Rally3)
Hugh Brunton/Drew Sturrock (Škoda Fabia Rally2)
Archie Swinscoe/Jane Nicol (Opel Adam)
Gerry Fitzelle/Mark Mason (Escort Mk2)
Will Rowlands/Emyr Hall (Ford Escort RS1800)
Stephen Simpson/Patrick Walsh (Ford Fiesta Rally2)
John Stone/Laura Connell (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5)
Michael Harbour/Ian MacDougall (Ford Escort Mk2)
Geoff Roberts/Ian Jones (Escort RS1800 Mk2)
Pictures by Russ Otway and Mark Sims