By Paul Evans
Damian Cole has a chance of winning his twenty-third rally on Epynt this weekend – and in doing so equal the astonishing all-time winning record set by John Price, that has stood for almost 20 years.
For the best part of three decades, Price was the master of Epynt; the man to beat over the undulating and unforgiving narrow asphalt roads of the military range, high above Sennybridge.
Having retired from competition, Price’s amazing achievement looked unbeatable – until now!
But on Sunday, Cole could equal that record by winning the Old Forge Garage Mewla Rally. And if he does, the Get Connected/Energizer-backed Ford Fiesta WRC driver will also equal Price’s record of six Mewla Rally wins as well.
Cole has been chipping away at Price’s benchmark since taking his first victory on Epynt 16 years ago. He is already an eight-time King of Epynt challenge champion, and now it’s a matter of when, not if, Cole will become the undisputed all-time King of Epynt.
And this weekend will have even greater significance, as Cole goes into the Mewla Rally leading the Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship. Victory would also put him within touching distance of an incredible seventh title.
“To win the Asphalt Championship title, I have to go with the aim of winning the Mewla Rally, because the race for the title is so close,” says Cole.
“It would also be nice to equal John Price’s record of six Mewla Rally wins and twenty-three Epynt wins in one go. When I started rallying, John was winning all the rallies on Epynt and I remember beating him on a stage for the very first time, taking a couple of seconds out of him in my blue Darrian GTR, and at the time that felt like a massive achievement. To now be so close to equalling John’s record is incredible, although my first rally win on Epynt was in 2003, so it’s taken me a long time!
“I go to this weekend’s Mewla Rally with a lot of confidence – not least because I’ve done three rallies on Epynt with Paul Spooner co-driving and won all three of them, so let’s hope we can make it four out of four. You can’t influence what anyone else does in rallying, so we’ll be going out and doing our own thing and trying to win.”
But victory won’t come easy, not with the likes of defending Asphalt Rally Champion and last year’s Mewla Rally winner Jason Pritchard (North Road Garage Ford Focus WRC05) and multiple Epynt winner Bob Fowden (Comline Auto Parts/NGK Subaru Impreza WRC S11) lining up on the star-studded entry list.
The event is also a round of the JD Competition Tyres Welsh National Tarmacadam Rally Championship, which is currently being led by three time champion Richard Merriman in his two-litre Vauxhall-engined Darrian T90.
Organised by Epynt Motor Club, the Mewla Rally was first ran over the Epynt military range roads in 1978 in the dark, and even in daylight it remains one of the biggest asphalt rally challenges and an event everyone wants to win. Rally headquarters is based at the International Pavilion at the Royal Welsh Showground in Llanelwedd, and the event will start on the Epynt military ranges at 08.45. Competition takes place over 13 stages on Sunday, totalling around 75 stage miles, before the finish back at the Royal Welsh Showground at 16.45.
Spectators coming to the event are asked to approach Epynt via the duel carriageway at Llywel, on the A40 between Trecastle/Brecon and Llandovery. The nearest postcode is LD3 8RG.
Old Forge Garage Mewla Rally – top 10 seeds
1. Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke….Ford Focus WRC05
2. Damian Cole/Paul Spooner….Ford Fiesta WRC
3. Bob Fowden/Den Golding….Subaru Impreza S11 WRC
4. John Stone/Michael Gilbey….Ford Fiesta WRC
5. Alan Kirkaldy/Cameron Fair….Ford Fiesta R5
6. Darren Atkinson/Phil Sandham….Ford Escort Mk2
7. Gareth Richards/Deian Rees….Darrian T90
8. Rob Tout/Peredur Wyn Davies….Mitsubishi Lancer EvoX
9. Paul Kirtley/David Jones….Subaru Impreza S6 WRC
10. Richard Clews/Hamish Campbell….Subaru Impreza