By Paul Evans
Jason Pritchard hit the jackpot on the PokerStars Rally by setting fastest time on every stage to win the event by a staggering 5mins 20.9secs after a dominant performance in his North Road Garage Ford Focus WRC05.
Having won the Manx National a record-equalling five times and the IOM Historic Rally twice, the Builth Wells driver’s invincible record on the Isle of Man continues as he and Phil Clarke dominated the event from start to finish.
It also puts them right back in contention for a third straight Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship title, with only the Ford Parts Cheviot Stages Rally, held over the Otterburn military range in Northumberland on Sunday 24 October,remaining.
The Isle of Man weather threw everything at competitors, but Pritchard sailed off into the distance on Friday night to open up a 2mins 51.7secs gap after Leg 1. He wasn’t even that happy with his driving, with ‘untidy’ being the self-assessment of what appeared from outside the car at least to be something of a Manx masterclass – whilst carnage raged in his wake.
Heavy rain on Saturday morning for the opening loop of Leg 2’s daylight stages helped to keep his mind focused on the job, whilst the ever-changing surface conditions caused even more drivers behind to go off.
The results move Pritchard from 11th to third in the overall drivers’ standings, but with the two drivers ahead of him needing to drop a score, the double Protyre Asphalt champion has a slight advantage heading into the final round.
“I’m very pleased to win the PokerStars – and to have won every stage as well,” said Pritchard.
“We didn’t take any silly risks and it was good fun.
A magnificent @Protyre #Asphaltrallying top 3 on the @ManxAutoSport @PokerStars Rally. 1. Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke, 2. Mark Kelly/Neil Colman, 3. John Stone/Tom Woodburn. @BTRDARally @ourmotorsportuk pic.twitter.com/PgUi419guh
— Asphalt Rallying (@AsphaltRallying) October 2, 2021
“The conditions were tricky, it certainly added to the challenge, but it’s proper Manx isn’t it?
“We had a little drama near the end when the alternator light came on.
“The car started cutting in and out, the dash, powershift and everything went and we were stuck in gear – so I pulled over, switched the ECU off, waited for thirty seconds for it to reboot and turn everything back on.
“As it happened it wasn’t the same problem as what happened on the Manx National a few years ago and we found that it was a lead to the alternator and a cable tie fixed it!”
It was a good event too for Bedlinog’s Mike Pugsley who, together with co-driver Marc Clatworthy, sealed another class B12 title in his 1974 Escort RS2000 Mk1.
William Mains once again proved that he is the undisputed king of the Protyre Asphalt 1400 class by becoming champion yet again in his Roy Thomas & Son-sponsored Vauxhall Nova.
The Llandysul driver was ably co-driven by Sion Jones in the giant-killing little car.
Winners of the Pokerstars rally. Fastest on every stage. Scare on the penultimate stage but a few cable ties kept us going to the finish. pic.twitter.com/hFeSsqcfYN
— Jason Pritchard (@JasonNRG) October 2, 2021
There were many crews who failed to make it to the finish and surprisingly the first to hit problems was Melvyn Evans.
Arriving on the Isle of Man leading the Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship, he and co-driver Mark Glennerster locked up approaching a tight corner on the opening stage and hit a bridge, breaking a wheel on their Škoda Fabia R5+.
Damian Cole also locked up in his Get Connected/TCL Škoda Fabia R5+ on the very next stage and hit a bank head-on.
The heavy impact threw the back of the car across the narrow road and wedged it solidly between the two banks, leaving a quick-reacting Damian and co-driver Andrew Roughead to sprint back up the road to warn the oncoming cars of the blockage.
With damage to the front and rear of the car, their rally was over too.
Dai Roberts/Daniel Petrie hit a bank on Saturday’s opening stage and ripped the front off their Peugeot 205 GTi.
Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke arrive in service after a tough opening three #PokerStars stages. The @ToyotaNRG Focus WRC looks awesome with those lights on! @Protyre @BTRDARally @ManxAutoSport pic.twitter.com/VbIePRZ7Zf
— Asphalt Rallying (@AsphaltRallying) October 1, 2021
Andy Davies/Michael Gilbey also had a difficult run in their Subaru Impreza and withdrew from the event on Saturday morning, with torrential rain and slippery roads making conditions extremely hazardous.
“I refuse to put either of us in danger for the sake of a top ten result, so we withdrew on stage eight,” said Davies.
“The feeling in the car was terrible and in a car like that, if you aren’t ten-tenths,you’re nowhere, so we quit whilst we were ahead.”