Contenders for both the Richard Egger Insurance MSA Asphalt Rally Championship & BTRDA Asphalt Rally Series were out in force at the weekend on the Eventsigns Mewla Rally and 90 miles of competition on the Epynt Military Ranges has begun to whittle down the number of crews still in with a shout of taking each of the titles.

With one round of the MSA Championship still to run, there are three drivers in contention for outright honours whilst, in the BTRDA Series two events have yet to take place and, on paper, the trophy could go any one of seven different ways.

Between them, the two series were responsible for almost a third of the total entry on the Mewla and it was defending MSA Asphalt Champion Steve Simpson who was first home. After an excellent run in his Hyundai Accent WRC, which included setting second-fastest time on the final 20-mile stage, he came home in third place to take his first maximum of the season and increase his lead in the Championship at this point.

However, Simpson has finished all five qualifying rounds to date and must drop a score before the end of the season, whilst his closest pursuers, David Kynaston (Audi A3 Quattro) and David Mann (Subaru Impreza WRC), have already registered one retirement each. Both crews finished the Mewla - coincidentally, just eight seconds apart by the end of the day - to keep their Championship hopes very much alive and set the scene for a grandstand finish on the Cheviot National Rally in mid-October.

Although they can still finish comfortably in the top three, the Mewla put paid to the Championship aspirations of both John Price (MG Metro 6R4) and Simon Mauger (Ford Escort RS). Prices suffered a tyre blow-out and the flailing tyre tore one of the rear brake callipers off the Metro, while Mauger was comfortably in eighth, despite various problems, when their Escort's clutch gave up on the final stage.

Having been forced to miss Sligo, an under-the-weather Graham Hollis brought his Escort home in eighth place overall to increase their lead in Class B11 and maintain the pressure on Mauger in the Rear-Wheel Drive category.

Tenth overall gave Chris Jones (Ford Focus STI) maximum BTRDA Series points - his first of the season - and kept them at the top of the table with two rounds to go. Keeping a watching brief on the leaders, and finishing less than a minute behind them after an over-cautious approach and a wrong tyre choice cost some time, was Mark Welch. In a similar scenario to that in the MSA Championship, Jones has yet to drop a score while Welch was absent from the first round.

Also in there fighting are Gary Le Coadou (Toyota Celica GT4) who would have been third but for some road penalties, and Graham Muter whose 1300cc Ford Escort has also maintained a 100 per cent finishing record to put itself into third place overall in the standings.

2007 BTRDA Asphalt Rally Series winner Adrian Spencer (Subaru Impreza) has spent this season acclimatising to life in the MSA Championship and is improving with each event. A top 15 place on the Mewla was in spite of the fact that co-drover Hewitt was feeling decidedly off-colour, to the point that he spent some time in hospital immediately after the finish.

Chris Marshall had been forced to find a replacement co-driver for his Mitsubishi Lancer EVO after his usual partner, Simon Hunter, had entered the event separately - as a driver! Both recorded finishes, the main difference being that one scored points, while the other didn't...

Geoff Glover was hoping that modifications made to his Vauxhall Astra RWD's gearbox since its last outing would put an end to the problems he has had with the unit in recent times. In the event, it was a loose manifold that caused them some concern, but the car was soon restored to full health once again. Just one second behind the Astra as Richard Butler in his Honda Civic Type R - an effort for which Richard was awarded the John Price Rallying 'Star Drive' salver. The Civic ended up on its roof in Sligo six weeks ago and was looking decidedly second-hand but, due to a large amount of TLC on the part of the driver, not only was it back to the shape that Honda originally intended, but it also earned maximum Championship class points on Epynt.

Paul Harewood benefited from the Civic's misfortune then, but had to be content with second this time, although less than fifteen seconds separated the two class rivals. Richard Clews returned to the fray in a brand-new Renault Clio and spent the day learning about the car. Some niggling problems cost some time, but they brought it home to the finish and should be well-pleased with its debut.

A finish on Epynt keeps Ian Copping in with a chance of taking Class B11 this season while, in spite of swopping cars from a Citroen AX to a Peugeot 106, Tracey Louise Muir has made doubly sure of B9.

Martin Newson and Roland Jones both took the opportunity to add to their respective tallies in Class A5 but whose MG ZR will take the class title will not be known until the conclusion of the Cheviot.

The BTRDA Series classes are all proving to be hot-beds of competition. Graham Muter leads the 1400s, but can still be caught by Gary Barlow (Vauxhall Nova), although Simon Selby saw his miserable season continue after his Austin Seven went out with an overheating engine.

C2 (up to 1600cc) went to Tim Seipel (MG ZR) for the second time this season, as Paul Kendrick registered his first retirement for nearly two years when their Chrysler Sunbeam succumbed to throttle cable failure. Craig Jose and Tom Bye both brought their Peugeot 205s to the end of the Mewla, much to the delight of the latter crew for whom it was the first sight of a finish ramp all season.

Series sponsor Richard Egger was not so lucky when his Nova threw its alternator belt, a frantic search of the service barge revealed all the replacements to be still in the workshop at home. Not that it will be any consolation to them, but his class (C3) is being led by Sara Williams (Honda Civic Type 'R') who took her second maximum at the weekend.

Class S is led by Jones, Le Coadou and Welch, while Nigel Killerby (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO) and Pete Donnachie (Subaru Impreza) both failed to finish. Donnachie's day had started badly with turbo trouble and inconsistent brakes that seemed to be pleasing themselves when they worked and, more worryingly, when they didn't. Having been able to continue even after a rear driveshaft snapped, further participation in the event proved impossible when a front one went as well.

The Richard Egger Insurance BTRDA Asphalt Rally Series continues with the Patriot Stages, at Caerwent, on Sunday 28 September, before also heading for Otterburn for the finale in October.