The fourth round of this year’s Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge takes place next weekend, when the one-make championship for production class Lancer Evolutions heads to Builth Wells for the Severn Valley National Rally and the first of three events in Wales.
The rally’s start, finish and service area are all based at the Royal Welsh Showground with the route featuring 70 competitive miles split into a series of timed special stages in the forests on the Brecon Beacons. The National Rally sees a total of 40 cars line-up to start the event, of which 16 are Evolution Challenge competitors - a figure which represents 25% of the entry.
On each of the three previous rounds the competition between the Mitsubishis has been fierce, with only fractions of seconds regularly separating the top Evo Challenge teams. Last time out, on the asphalt of the RBS International Manx Rally, it was Ulsterman Neil McCance who showed the others the way home, whereas the two earlier gravel-based events, the Rally Sunseeker and the Border Counties Rally, were the domain of his fellow countryman Phillip Morrow.
These two early season victories, coupled with a sixth place on the Isle of Man, have put Morrow at the top of the series standings, just two points ahead of Welshman Sebastian Ling, who finished fourth in round one and second in rounds two and three.
In third place is the young Yorkshireman Stephen Petch, who’s consistency and perseverance this year is paying off. Following two third places and a frustrating retirement on the Manx Rally, Julian Reynolds lies fourth. Needless to say, he is keen to put himself back in contention next weekend and, due to an impressive track record in Welsh Forests, he starts next weekend’s rally as the number one seed.
He is followed by Morrow, who has also proved he is no slouch in that neck of the woods - and then Ling, who will be out to uphold Welsh honour - as well as bid for the series lead.
The on-form McCance, who is keen to maintain his tarmac pace on gravel, starts fourth, with up-and-coming youngster, David Bogie fifth. By just looking at his stage times, Bogie has already proved he can be a leading Mitsubishi contender, although he starts the Severn Valley National Rally in a hired Evolution, his own car not fully repaired after a confrontation with a wall in round three.
Another to come to grief in the Manx lanes was Nik Elsmore, who is down to start in sixth place. But with his car requiring a re-shell and a new engine, following a damage-inflicting roll, it’s going to be a challenge in itself just to get his car to the start line.
In contrast, Wayne Sisson, who starts next, had a good run on the Isle of Man finishing third. He is followed by the ever-quickening Irish Juniors Errol Clarke and Daniel Barry, with Petch next. An engine rebuild for Thomas Naughton sees him return to the Evo Challenge fold after missing the last round, with spirited competitor Jon Sparks determined to post another solid performance.
A late and very welcome entry has been received from Daniel Siguroarson, who currently leads the Iceland Rally Championship and is eager to prove himself in the UK as well as his homeland.
The Evolution Cup for closer-to-standard specification Group N Mitsubishis sees its current leader Miles Johnston out to defend his position, having won the first two rounds and then retiring on the Isle of Man. He is up against winner on that occasion Wayne Radford and experienced rallyist Mark I’Anson, so Johnston will certainly not be able to relax if he wishes to retain his advantage.
The Severn Valley National Rally also hosts round three of the Hankook MSA Gravel Rally Championship, which features a number of highly modified World Rally Cars. However, because of the nature of the stages, it’s almost certain that the pace of the Evo Challenge competitors will see them feature high in the leading positions.
The Evolution Challenge offers drivers what is widely regarded as the best prize in British rallying – the chance to become a Mitsubishi works driver in the 2008 British Rally Championship.
Also included in this year’s Mitsubishi championship are the Pirelli and Performance Friction Brakes Cups.
The series is backed by Mitsubishi Motors UK Ralliart, with support from its associate sponsors: Pirelli, PIAA, Speedline Corse, Sparco, Performance Friction Brakes, Shell Helix and Tesco 99 Octane - suppliers of the controlled fuel for the championship.
Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge entries (in start number order)
4 Julian Reynolds (Narberth)/Patrick Walsh (Aberystwyth)
8 Phillip Morrow (Lisburn)/Daniel Barritt (Burnley) (J)
9 Sebastian Ling (Llandysul)/Aled Rees (Crymych)
10 Neil McCance (Coomber)/Sean Moriarty (Kerry)
15 David Bogie (Dumfries)/Rob Fagg (Kirkmichael) (J)
16 Nik Elsmore (Coleford)/Vicky Allen (Denbigh)
18 Wayne Sisson (Carnforth)/Daniel Stone (Chesterfield)
19 Daniel Barry (Enniskerry)/Mark Bowen (Cork) (J)
20 Errol Clarke (Irvinestown)/Martin McGarrity (Lisnaskea) (J)
21 Stephen Petch (Richmond)/Michael Wilkinson (Tow Law) (J)
26 Miles Johnston (York)/Ian Bevan (Wrexham)*
27 Thomas Naughton (Bury)/Horace Saville (Bury)
32 Mark I’Anson (Haydon Bridge)/TBC*
35 Wayne Radford (Dinnington)/Paul Drew (Stroud)*
36 Jonathan Sparks (Glastonbury)/Bradley Magnus (Downham Market)
46 Daniel Siguroarson (Iceland)/Asta Siguroardottir (Iceland)
* = Evolution Cup
(J) PIAA Junior Driver
Championship standings after round three
1 Phillip Morrow 29
2 Seb Ling 27
3 Stephen Petch 19
4 Julian Reynolds 16
5 Neil McCance 15
6 Wayne Sisson 13
7 Jonny Milner 10
8 Nik Elsmore 9
9 David Bogie 9
10 Daniel Barry 8
Evolution Cup - Drivers
1 Miles Johnston 24
2 Wayne Radford 22
3 Ferran Font 10
4 Mark I’Anson 8
PIAA Junior Award
1 Phillip Morrow 13
2 Stephen Petch 11
3 David Bogie 6
4 Daniel Barry 6
5 Connor McCloskey 4
6 Errol Clarke 2