Having clinched his sixth MSA Asphalt Rally Championship crown on the recent Patriot Stages Rally, Damian Cole is wheeling out his Escort MkII for the final round of the series, the Cheviot Keith Knox Stages Rally, on 9th October. Due to the unavailability of a suitable date, the Cheviot did not take place last year and Cole takes the No.1 spot after winning the rally in 2014. He and Paul Morris will, obviously, be hoping to end their season on a high but, even at this stage of the proceedings, there are plenty of others with different ideas!
David Tinn (Proton Satria Neo) currently occupies 2nd place, behind Cole, in the
Drivers’ table whilst, having missed an event earlier in the season, a good run over
Otterburn could see co-driver Giles Dykes finish in a similar position, overhauling an absent Patrick Walsh in the process.
Bob Fowden will be partnered by Ashley Trimble in his Impreza WRC for the Cheviot. Fowden replaced his B13 Impreza with a World Rally Car at the start of the year and, since some mid-season gearbox issues appear to have now been resolved, the
results are there to see!
A second Proton Satria, in the hands of Mark Jasper/Don Whyatt, starts behind Fowden/Trimble and, whilst these two have been absent from the Championship for quite a while, their knowledge of the Ranges should not be underestimated! Then there’s Richard Clews who has put up some very creditable performances in what is basically a Group N+ Impreza. Absence from the recent Patriot Stages has caused the Coventry driver to slip down the table, but a good result here could possibly see him finish the season as runner-up in this year’s Asphalt Championship!….
Joining Clews in the hunt for Class B13 points will be Richard & Ben Slinger
(Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9) and Stu Bainborough (Lancer EVO6). Clews & Ben Slinger
have already done enough to guarantee the Kwik Trak awards for the end-of-season class win, but the remaining places are still very much up for grabs! It’s been a steep learning curve for Manxman Bainborough but a finish on the Tyneside Stages, also on Otterburn, in August will have given him some idea of what to expect this time.
Mark Borthwick’s ex Simon Mauger Escort MkII returns to chase Millington Rear-Wheel Drive Challenge points – he got the better of this year’s winners, Geoff Glover/Keith Barker (Vauxhall Astra RWD), on the Tyneside Stages and the two crews now return for a re-match!
The Group N category has been a closely-fought affair this year, with Wynne Watkins
(Impreza) and Oliver Hopkins (Lancer EVO9) leading the charge to succeed 2014/5
champions David & Mathew White. Watkins put the matter beyond doubt on the
Patriot Stages, but a good run over Otterburn could see Hopkins, in his first full
season of Asphalt Championship events, move up to within one point of the winner.
Recently-crowned AB Motorsport Front-Wheel Drive Challenge and Class B10 Champions William Hill/Richard Crozier (Fiesta R200) can now enjoy the Cheviot Stages without any pressure. Their season’s work is done and they’ve earned this one! Meanwhile, to describe Tim Seipel/Val Thompson’s season as ‘fraught’ doesn’t really cut it! Their MG ZR was blighted with clutch-related issues earlier in the year and, having put those to bed, they were sidelined on the opening stage of the Patriot by a drive flange failure. They were using an estate car for service and, without sufficient room for ‘the kitchen sink’, weren’t carrying a spare. Well, you can guess the rest!…
Class B10 has been a very competitive affair this year and, although Hill/Crozier have confirmed their place at the top, Seipel, Phil Bruce (Peugeot 206) & Paul Clackett/David Millard (Suzuki Swift S1600) will all be disputing the remaining positions before the books are closed at the conclusion of the Cheviot!
The 1400cc category has also been nip-and-tuck and, with just the Cheviot to go, a mere seven points separate first from third places. So, David & Mathew Smalley (Vauxhall Corsa) need to finish to ensure their place as 2016 Champions!….
Following a recce – unfortunately only one run this year due to current restrictions – on Saturday afternoon, the first car is due to leave the start of the Cheviot Keith Knox Stages Rally from the Airstrips, on Otterburn, at 9.00am on Sunday morning, with 12
stages, totalling 60 miles, on offer before the finish at 4.50pm.