The MSA British Rally Championship will be decided from the best five of six scoring opportunities, the second half of them starting this weekend in Enniskillen, as the Todds Leap Ulster Rally kicks off the run to the finish.
It is currently advantage Ireland, in a battle that has seen last year’s Welsh runners-up pairing Osian Pryce/Dale Furniss fight round by round with Pirelli Star Driver Daniel McKenna; Arthur Kierans’ steady hand on the notes, both crews in identical specification Citroën DS3s.
Going to the gravel of the Scottish Rally it was a win apiece, but the event proved unlucky once again for the Welsh duo. Denied even a single competitive mile in 2013, they succumbed to mechanical woes two years on the trot, leaving McKenna and Kierans to cruise the final stage to victory in Dumfries.
With McKenna victorious last time the pair met on asphalt on the Jim Clark Rally in May, Pryce must hope that his win in Ulster last year will stand him in good stead, majestic on the wet ‘tar’ and finishing nearly a minute clear of the eventual 2013 champions. But with Korhonen and Salminen absent in 2014, the championship trophy will definitely carry new names at the close of the season – it’s still all to play for!
Local lad Timothy Cathcart has the added experience of Dai Roberts to guide him, the pair looking to spoil the record sheets with a win of their own. While Roberts has plenty of podium-time in the BRC, wins included, his driver not only wants a taste of the champagne, but also need to grab a finish after a difficult season in the Citroën DS3.
As with last year the DS3 has been imperious so far this season, making Citroën UK’s MSA British Rally Championship for Constructors title seem easily within the French marque’s grasp. The dominance of the podium top-step also means that the battle for the Citroën Racing Trophy mirrors that of the overall title fight.
Meanwhile the fight for the BRC Class 2 title is just as tense, a fight exclusively for Fiestas in Ulster. From south and north of the Irish border, Dean Raftery and newcomer Calvin Beattie are united in their choice of car and their hunt for the title, although Raftery and co-driver Aileen Kelly have two wins to Beattie and Emmet Sherry’s two second places.
Amazingly it is another newcomer in a Fiesta that leads not only the MSA British Junior Rally Championship, but the BRC’s RallyTwo category too. The feat is amazing because the young ex-kart racer’s Fiesta is giving away nearly forty horsepower to his rivals, his BRC3 class-leading car also heading the Ford Fiesta SportTrophy one-make series.
However it is the NGK Spark Plugs BRC Challenge Trophy that has the closest battle in the field. Former champion Richard Sykes and Emma Morrison just two points clear of Scotland’s Ross Hunter and Josh Davison.
Sykes has two victories in the Citroën C2, while Hunter has a first and a second in his Peugeot 205. With both failing to finish one event so far, it really is a battle of nerves, although Hunter may have the edge when it comes to hunger, having never lifted the overall trophy before.
Another pair with the scent of victory close is Niall Moroney and Elgan Davies. Moroney leads the NGK-supported series Star of the Future Category, while the pair also tops the BRC5 class in a Peugeot 106.
Todds Leap Ulster Rally
Spectators will have the chance to get up close and personal with the drivers, the cars and the action again this year as organisers have designed the Spectator Special Stage at St Angelo Airfield, just outside Enniskillen, which will provide drivers with the chance to impress their fans at close quarters.
The two day event caters for all the premier British and Irish Rally Championships, including the MSA British Rally Championship, the Irish Tarmac, MSA British and Irish Historic and the Northern Ireland Rally Championships, and it is sure to provide a thrilling weekend of rally action when it gets underway with a ceremonial start in Enniskillen on Friday, August 15th at 13.00 before the finish at 17.30 on Saturday.