By Paul Evans
Melvyn Evans won an event his own rally preparations company was sponsoring yesterday, when the 53-year old Lampeter driver mastered the damp and tricky conditions to win the Port Talbot MC-organised Melvyn Evans Motorsport Tour of Epynt by 39 seconds.
Co-driven by Mark Glennerster, Evans repeated his 2012 victory on the event in the same car – a powerful four-wheel drive Subaru Impreza WRC S12b, which proved ideal for the rollercoaster Tarmac roads of the Epynt military range. He was equal fastest with Abergavenny’s Damian Cole on both the opening two stages, but a push on the twisty and technical Burma Road section was the key to success, as he put his foot down and gradually increased his lead over the seven stage event.
Cole never put a foot wrong in his Get Connected Ford Fiesta WRC and, despite ripping the handbrake out of the floor on the opening loop of stages, the six-time MSA Asphalt Rally Champion (co-driven for the first time by Jamie Edwards) got his Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship campaign off to a strong start by finishing second.
Builth Wells’ Jason Pritchard spun his North Road Garage Ford Fiesta S2000 at the first junction on the opening stage, losing a few precious seconds at the Llandeilo’r Fân Triangle, before continuing through the very damp first loop of stages with understeer. Despite very little seat time in the car, and the S2000 being considerably less powerful than the World Rally Cars around him, Pritchard and co-driver Phil Clarke set a remarkable pace – even setting fastest time on the final stage when the rain returned – to finish an excellent third overall.
Last year’s Tour of Epynt winner and number one seed Bob Fowden was third (only 16 seconds behind Evans and five seconds behind Cole) before he and co-driver Aled Davies slipped their Comline Auto Parts/NGK-backed Subaru Impreza WRC S11 off the road on SS5 and got stuck.
Phil Turner, from the village of Craig Cefn Parc near Swansea, had been going well until the clutch failed on his Mitsubishi on SS5, while Ammanford’s Rob Tout, the 2014 Welsh Tarmac Rally Champion, retired his Evo on the next stage.
Bridgend’s Huw Reed scored an excellent top 10-result in his powerful 2.5-litre Millington Series 2-engined rear-wheel drive Darrian T90 GTR, while Pontyclun’s Tony Rees finished 15th in a similar car – happy to have got some valuable mileage under his belt in the new car, ahead of the West Cork Rally in Ireland.
“It’s been six years since I last drove this Subaru Impreza WRC on Epynt – we were car number three on the Tour of Epynt in 2012 and won, and this year we were car number three and we won again, so we’ll have to be car number three more often,” said Evans. “We started off sensibly to see what our pace was like – the pace was there, so we had a push on the Burma Road on the middle loop and found that was the place we could take a bit of time out of Damian. There are lots of fast places on Epynt where it’s very difficult to make any time, so we were really fast and precise in the tricky sections and that’s what made the difference and paid dividends. All the drivers have gone well today. It’s been slippery and greasy, tyre choice has been very difficult, but it’s been a fantastic battle all the way to the finish.”
“It’s always nice to win, but I’ve only won the Tour of Epynt once before and lost count of the times I’ve been second here and it’s bridesmaid again today,” said second-placed Cole. “I said before the start that Melvyn was the one to watch and he’s proved the case and has been very fast all day. We matched him on the first two stages, but then he put his foot down a little bit and pulled away from us. We went quite well. We may have had the wrong tyres on for one loop, but apart from that everything went well and the car was good. We’re looking forward to the Isle of Man now. I’ve been third there three times and second once – so we’ll be trying on the Manx to score the one podium result that’s so far eluded us.”
“I haven’t driven the Fiesta S2000 very much at all, and every mile in the car we do we’re improving,” said Pritchard, who was happy with third. “The car hasn’t got the grunt of a World Rally Car, and on the long uphill sections of the New Road, and accelerating out of tight junctions, we were obviously losing a bit of time. But we were fastest in the rain on the final stage so, had it been wet throughout the day, maybe we could have been a bit closer to challenging for the win. We’ll use the Focus WRC on the Isle of Man – we’ve won the event three times in a row and last year we set fastest time on every stage bar one in the car, so we’re already looking forward to round two.”
Tour of Epynt – Top 10 overall finishers
1. Melvyn Evans/Mark Glennerster (Subaru Impreza WRC)….1h04m58s
2. Damian Cole/Jamie Edwards (Ford Fiesta WRC)….+39s
3. Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke (Ford Fiesta S2000)….+1m46s
4. Steve Simpson/Patrick Walsh (Ford Fiesta RS)….+3m23s
5. Adrian Spencer/Matt Daniels (Subaru Impreza WRC)….+3m36s
6. Paul Kirtley/David Jones (Subaru Impreza)….+4m36s
7. Wayne Sisson/Max Freeman (Mitsubishi Evo)….+5m08s
8. Gareth James/Steffan Evans (Ford Escort Mk2)….+5m09s
9. Huw Reed/Anthony Hackett (Darrian T90 GTR)….+5m25s
10. Richard Merriman/Kath Curzon (Darrian T90)….+5m26s