BLACKBURN driver John Stone made a storming start to his MSA Asphalt Rally Championship with a brilliant fourth place on the Tour of Epynt.

The Legend Fires boss overcame the disappointment of retirement on last month’s North West Stages to clinch a double personal best on the notorious Welsh military roads.

He said: “That’s my best result on Epynt as it’s never been too kind to me, and it’s also the best ever start to our championship.

“We had no major problems at all.

“The only issue was me not being too familiar with the final couple of stages.

“They were run in the opposite direction to what I’m used to, so I couldn’t commit as I would have liked.”

Stone and co-driver Carl Williamson didn’t get off to a great start with a 10-second penalty infringement at MC1, but the pair were soon into their stride, setting the sixth fastest time on the opening stage before going fourth fastest on SS2 to elevate themselves to fourth overall.

The next couple of stages were affected by accidents meaning notional times were awarded on SS3, and times for SS4 were scrapped altogether.

Fifth fastest times on the final three tests saw them secure a fine fourth place finish, a huge improvement on last year’s 10th place.

Stone added: “We are now looking forward to the Manx Rally in a couple of months, although I plan an outing somewhere between now and then to try to stave off any rustiness.”

Tour of Epynt, top 10: 1 Damian Cole/Elliot Edmondson (Ford Focus WRC) 52:56, 2 Peter Lloyd/Neil James (Subaru Impreza) 52:57, 3 Stephen Simpson/Patrick Walsh (Subaru Impreza WRC) 53:01, 4 John Stone/Carl Williamson (Skoda Fabia WRC) 54:37, 5 Robert Swann/Darren Garrod (Subaru Impreza) 55:08, 6 John Indri/Peter James (Subaru Impreza WRC) 55:41, 7 Simon Mauger/Brian Cammack (Ford Escort Mk11) 56:08, 8 Bob Fowden/Ashley Trimble (Subaru Impreza) 56:09, 9 Darren Atkinson/Phil Sandham (Ford Escort Mk2) 56:13, 10 Roger Moran/Joy Hoyle (Ford Escort Mk2) 57:03.