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.