ITG’s Richard Clews endured a frustrating start to the 2018 Protyre MSA Asphalt Championship with retirement from the opening event, the Tour of Epynt
It was always going to be a challenging event for all concerned, yet events outside Richard Clews and the rest of the team’s control served to render the opening round of the 2018 Protyre MSA Asphalt Championship, the Tour of Epynt, even more frustrating than it might at first have been. The cause of the frustration turned out to be an engine issue, one which ultimately forced Richard Clews and co-driver Hamish Campbell out of the rally, but not before they’d been able to demonstrate the inherent pace of their Impreza and effectiveness of their partnership.
The pace of the ITG-sponsored Impreza was in evidence before the tour had event begun, with Richard opting to conduct a short brake and tyre test in the days preceding the rally. This enabled the crew to get acquainted with a number of new additions to the Subaru, most significantly a new Hankook tyre with a compound well suited to competing on Epynt’s notoriously tricky asphalt stages.
“It was a valuable test and one I’m glad we ran,” explains Richard. “It gave me a chance to feel comfortable in the car after an extended break from competition, and I was impressed with the handling, brakes and tyres.”
The test gave way to an equally fruitful recce on the Saturday before the rally, one which enabled Richard and Hamish to once again gel as a team, a good omen for the rest of the championship. The recce also proved that Richard and Hamish’s pace notes were more than up to the task at hand, with enough detail to avoid Epynt’s myriad challenges, ditches, crests and innocuous looking brows!
Sunday dawned overcast but dry, though the stages themselves remained sodden from the torrential rain of the previous day – a good thing as far as Richard was concerned, as it would be a hindrance to some of his closest competitors, particularly those running two-wheel drive machinery.
“I was confident in my ability to put on a decent performance over the opening loop of stages, despite the slippery conditions; I’d worked hard on the notes, had done my homework from previous events and was happy with the car’s setup, but it didn’t quite work out like that.”
Although happy with his Impreza’s handling in Stages 1 & 2 Richard couldn’t help but notice a distinct lack of power lower down the rev range – not what you want in rally dominated by big-power runs and flat-out blasts! The crew were in 10th overall despite the power deficit however, so Richard was more inclined to blame his lack of ‘seat time’ in recent months, and instead put it down to ‘rustiness’ on his part.
Stages 3 & 4 served to quash this notion though, with the same lack of low range power in evidence, and in fact growing more pronounced as the stages progressed. It all came to a head at the end of SS4, when the Impreza stalled and refused to start. Richard was able to call upon the help of fellow competitors Ollie Hopkins for a tow start, which enabled him to limp the car back to service for a closer inspection.
“Upon our return both Geoff Jones and Graham Sweet, our engine expert, got down to work, inspecting the engine for signs of failure. They advised us that it wouldn’t be wise to continue as they suspected the cam belt had jumped a tooth, hence the lack of power. It was a frustrating end to what had otherwise been a promising event – the car was handling and stopping better than ever, Hamish was great and my own driving was pretty good, which is all encouraging for the Manx if nothing else!”
Richard, Hamish and the rest of the ITG crew will be out in force for the Manx National Rally on 11th/12th of May.
ITG wish to thank www.rallygallery.com for covering the rally and for supplying the images used here.