20/03/2024 Off By admin

The 2024 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship commences this weekend, launching in Garstang with the North West Stages (March 22/23). One of the most anticipated rallies in the UK, the event is set to return to its Myerscough College base and kicks off with the well-received ceremonial start in Garstang town on Friday evening. The action takes place over 10 stages, covering 58 competitive stage miles on the Saturday. This also marks the first initial crossover event of three with the British Rally Championship.

Led by Paul Morris and his team and bolstered by renewed sponsorship from Protyre, the Championship has experienced steady growth in recent seasons, attracting arguably the strongest entries in UK rallying. Live coverage for all rounds is promised, with Special Stage providing footage and stage-end interviews on every event.

‘We now have a little more experience behind us as a Championship organising team, and armed with competitor feedback we now look forward to a new Championship year. There will be no change to the Championship personnel for 2024, and I am very grateful to all members of the team. We will continue to deliver a live stream through Wayne Goldring at Special Stage, with an enhanced package to include end of stage interviews as well as regular in-stage footage. I look forward to welcoming you all to a new Championship year’s rallying, good luck to all’ 

Paul Morris – Championship Coordinator

The Championship consists of 7 rallies, providing crews with 8 scoring opportunities (double-header Manx), where the top 6 results will count towards the overall standings.

Following on from the North West Stages, the Championship heads across the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man for the challenging double-header Manx rally. Renowned as one of the toughest on the calendar, the two-day rally spans over 200km of demanding stages, crisscrossing most of the island and finally concluding back at service in front of the iconic TT Grandstand in Douglas. Points are distributed across both days, with crews earning points for both Friday and Saturday.

Rounds four and five will take place north of the border in Scotland, starting with The Beatsons Building Supplies Jim Clark Rally in May. The event has a revamped 88-stage mile itinerary planned for 2024, including the return of the iconic Langton stage, unused for a decade in the Duns-based event. After the Clark, the championship moves to the Cowal peninsula and to Dunoon for the Argyll Stages. Starting with a double blast through Dunoon town centre on the Friday evening, crews will then tackle 5 short stages in the surrounding countryside before returning to service just after 10 pm. The Saturday features most of the mileage, with 11 special stages totalling 75 stage miles, concluding at Dunoon Stadium on the Saturday evening.

Heading from Scotland to Wales for the next two rounds, starting with the infamous Tour of Epynt which is organised by the experienced Port Talbot Motor Club. The military ranges above Sennybridge feature some of the most challenging stages in the UK, known for having its own microclimate, unforgiving run-off areas, and very narrow, fast stages with multiple jumps and blind crests. This year, the event has been extended to two days, with a boost in stage mileage.

Following on from Epynt, the next round takes place in the coastal town of Aberystwyth for what is arguably the UK’s most significant motorsport event, the JDS Machinery Rali Ceredigion. Competitors from the Protyre, along with participants from the BRC and the European Rally Championship will tackle a 120-mile route over three days, showcasing some of Wales’ finest closed road stages including favourites such as Nant Y Moch. The season finale brings the Championship back to England, with the Hill’s Ford Three Shires Stages. Organised by the Cheltenham Motor Club with backing from other local clubs, this event based in Ledbury unfolds over two days, taking on the closed road stages of Herefordshire, Worcestershire, and Gloucestershire.

Photo: Callum Black & Jack Morton | By Andy Cook (Xlerate.Media)

Favourites for the title are 2023 champions Callum Black & Jack Morton who return to defend their crown in the striking black & gold liveried Ford Fiesta Rally2. After having an updated cooling system fitted at M-Sport over winter, Black will be dovetailing an ARC & BRC campaign.

‘The plan is the BRC & ARC championships, we will start both and see where we’re at during the middle of the year’

Callum Black

Following their victory in the pre-season East Ridings Stages, Mark Kelly and Will Atkins are set for a full Championship campaign in their Skoda Fabia this season. With Mark securing wins in his last two closed road events, and Will claiming victory in his past six events, the pair undoubtedly have form leading into the opening round.

‘Full Protyre Championship this season is the plan all being well. I’m sure there will be plenty of twists & turns in the Protyre season as there are plenty of miles to go at.’

Will Atkins
Photo: Mark Kelly & Will Atkins | By Andrew Scott

2022 & 2023 runner-up Neil Roskell also returns for a full attack on the series, with the experienced Dai Roberts sitting next to him.

‘I’m planning on the BRC & ARC this year. I’m looking forward to having Dai (Roberts) alongside me this year, as Andrew (Roughead) is taking a year out. I think it will be tough this year as there is some serious competition in both Championships, but I’ll give it my best shot and see where we’re at!’

Neil Roskell
Photo: Neil Roskell | By Dan Morris

James Ford, along with Co-Driver Neil Shanks have achieved commendable results in the fiercely competitive Irish Tarmac Championship over the past few seasons and will be hoping to transfer those results over to the Asphalt Championship. The return of 2022 champion Steve Wood sees him switching from his Championship-winning Fiesta WRC to a Citroën C3 Rally2. 2008 BTRDA GoldStar winner Hugh Hunter is entered in a Ford Fiesta Rally2, and first-round sponsor and Championship regular John Stone is out in his VW Polo R5. Others to keep an eye on include David Wright, who has shown glimpses of event-winning pace in his Ford Fiesta, and the ever-improving Kevin Davies in his Melvyn Evans prepared VW Polo. 

Photos: James Ford / Hugh Hunter | By Dan Morris

Additionally, the Championship features a fleet of highly modified MK2 Ford Escorts, featuring Darren Atkinson, Huw James, Brad Cole, and Dave Willet, who are all capable of beating R5/Rally2 spec cars when the conditions align. Chris West and Keith Hounslow will also be out in the recently rebuilt 2.5 KGP 306 Maxi, which has 15 overall event wins on its CV, including the closed road event in Jersey.

Photo: Huw James | By Dan Morris

We’re geared up for an exciting season ahead, boasting strength in depth in all classes. The action kicks off this Saturday at the North West Stages where Callum Black begins his title defence. Can Neil Roskell improve upon his consecutive second-place finishes? And will any of the lightning-fast 2WD entries shake things up? Stay tuned as Xlerate will provide comprehensive reports throughout the season with our team of writers and photographers covering all events.