Steve Simpson/Patrick Walsh have started the 2016 MSA Asphalt Rally Championship in the same way they finished last season – with a win! Notwithstanding a lack of recce for the Melvyn Evans Motorsport Tour of Epynt (13th March) – they were 250 miles away contesting the Malcolm Wilson Rally at the time that took place! – their Subaru Impreza WRC moved into the lead of the event on the second of the seven stages and stayed there through to the finish, eventually coming home half-a-minute ahead of last year’s winners, Simon Mauger/Jon Hawkins (Metro 4M4).
Seasoned Epynt watchers were astonished by the glorious sunshine that pervaded the Ranges throughout the day and, as can be imagined, in such conditions the pace was fast and furious! For their part, Simpson & Walsh can count themselves lucky to finish after an errant oil pipe on the penultimate stage caused an under-bonnet fire which, thankfully, they were able to extinguish themselves before too much damage was done. Mark Worley, who had just retired, lent them another hand-held extinguisher to put in the car and off they went to complete the final stage and take the win.
For their part, Mauger/Hawkins were another half minute in front of the Fiesta WRC of Damian Cole/Paul Morris which, with just the final stage to go, was on equal time with Adrian Spencer/Mark Hewitt who were using their ex John Indri Impreza S11 on an Asphalt Championship round for the first time. Cole managed to squeeze a solitary second out of Spencer on that 14.5 mile stage to take the final podium spot.
Simon Mauger was experiencing various niggles with the 4M4 – fluctuating fuel pressure being the most noteworthy, whilst Cole admitted to a slight off on a hairpin on SS6 with the resultant loss of a handful of seconds. Also falling foul of a hairpin mid-event, Spencer stalled on one and the 15 seconds, or so, that it cost would have made all the difference at the finish!
Bob Fowden/Paul Wakely & Richard Clews/Carl Williamson were a mere eight seconds apart in their respective Imprezas, while Rob Tout/Dylan James also claimed a Top Ten spot in their Lancer EVO9. But for a one-minute road penalty, David Tinn/Giles Dykes (Proton Satria Neo) would have been there as well. However, it’s worth pointing out that, having been forced to miss the event in 2015, David was 27th two years ago and should be well pleased with what is, undoubtedly, a very impressive improvement!
Philip Turner’s Mitsubishi Lancer finished one place in front of the winning Group N car – the Impreza of Wynne Watkins/Sherryn Roberts. They hadn’t exactly had a trouble-free day as problems with the car’s centre diff. saw it dropping into fail-safe mode on occasions which is not exactly what you’d call a ‘confidence booster’! The new partnership of Oliver Hopkins/Ashley Trimble were second in the Production category in their Lancer EVO9, while champions for the past two seasons, David & Mathew White (Impreza), stopped on the first stage and will now have to wait until the trip to the Isle of Man to get the defence of their latest title underway.
A different driver/car combination came up trumps in the Millington Rear-Wheel Drive Challenge – Alistair Inglis’ Lotus Exige led the Astra RWD of Geoff Glover/Keith Barker back to the Llandovery finish. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a good day for Ford Escorts as those of both Graham Hollis/Alan Jones and Phil Turner failed to finish.
The AB Motorsport Front-Wheel Drive Challenge was dominated by the 1600cc Peugeot 106 of Paul Clapham. 17th overall and a class win, by more than two minutes, were just rewards for a blistering run over Epynt to take the lead in the table at this early stage. Next up were 22-year old William Hill and Richard Crozier in their Fiesta, finishing one place ahead of a returning Tim Seipel (MG ZR). David Earthy (Citroen C2R2 Max), partnered by Sarah Edwards, took a class win on the event for the third consecutive year, with Phil Bruce (Peugeot 206) next in the FWD points.
Asphalt Championship newcomers Richard Milbank/Lee Bezuidenhout (Vauxhall Corsa) romped home in the 1400 category, ahead of Ian & Margaret Kelly (Nissan Micra) and another Corsa in the hands of David & Mathew Smalley. Former champions Ian Barnard/Richard Bonner were reduced to the rank of spectators after their Nova retired midway through the event.
Retirements, especially among the leading crews were, thankfully, few and far between. The aforementioned David & Mathew White were the highest-seeded Championship registered crew (18) unlucky enough not to see the finish line. Meanwhile, Chris West’s Peugeot 306 Maxi holed its sump on the opening stage, but the team were able to repair the car in time for the Trophy Rally (last two stages) which it went on to win.
Championship Points Tables following the Tour of Epynt have already been circulated and, in the absence of any queries, will go final at midday on Thursday 24th March.
Round 2 : MANX NATIONAL RALLY (6th/7th May) –
Regulations/entry forms are available on http://www.manxautosport.org Both National ‘A’ & ‘B’ events cover identical routes and the final results are combined for the calculation of Championship points – so, the choice is yours!… Based at the world-famous TT Grandstand, the event is also the first asphalt round of the BTRDA Rally Challenge and we look forward to welcoming some of our colleagues from the RAVENOL BTRDA Rally Series to experience the closed public roads on the Isle of Man.
Round 3 : SMARTPART ALMC STAGES RALLY (3rd July).
Noel Devlin & Deirdre Gallagher were out canvassing support for our annual trip to Ireland on the Tour of Epynt for the rally which takes the Castle Arch Hotel in Trim, Co Meath, as its base. Further details are available on http://www.almc.ie
Circulated with this bulletin is a flyer from Crystal Images Awards run by former Millington Rear-Wheel Drive and current AB Motorsport Front-Wheel Drive Challenge Champions Darren & Sue Underwood (Click here for flyer). They supply the glassware for our end-of-season Championship Presentations and were also responsible for the awards on the Tour of Epynt.
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