Protyre Asphalt trio on top form at Down Ampney

Protyre Asphalt trio on top form at Down Ampney

12 May

By Paul Evans

Above: action picture of Damian Cole (Škoda Fabia R5) courtesy of Russ Otway.

Three leading Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship frontrunners contested the Corinium Stages at Down Ampney as a full-scale pre-season test ahead of the start of the 2021 – with Damian Cole, Oli Hopkins and Philip Hopkins all battling for a podium finish, and two achieving just that!
Damian, the six-time Protyre Asphalt champion, used the single venue event, which was held at the former RAF airfield complex in Gloucestershire, to make his competition debut in his new Škoda Fabia R5.
Despite a completely different gear shift system (using a gear stick rather than a paddle shift for the first time in five years), a five speed (instead of six speed) gearbox and having to alter his driving style to suit the car’s handling, Damian set the third fastest time on the opening stage.
He got quicker and quicker after that, as he acclimatised to the ex-Jan Kopecký machine – and after spinning the Get Connected / TCL-backed Fabia R5 on SS6, Damian set equal fastest time on the penultimate stage and outright fastest time on the eighth and final stage to come home a magnificent second overall.
It had been almost 18 months since Oli last sat in his Mitsubishi Mirage, the Asphalt Championship Class B14 runner-up also enjoyed a good event. Co-driven by Ian Taylor, the Bristol driver suffered an off on the opening stage and a near miss on the final test, but finished a fine third, eight seconds behind Damian, in the R5-spec car.
Oli’s brother Philip was in second place going into the final stage, despite losing time early on when his Hopkins Motorsport Mitsubishi Evo VI’s engine kept cutting out. He and co-driver David Jenkins were on course for silver when the car’s water pump pulley failed and they were forced to stop, less than two miles from the finish.
The event was won by Will Nicholls/Nick Broom in a Ford Fiesta R5.

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