Photo by Mark McCullagh…

20 year-old Welshman Osian Pryce won the fourth round of the 2013 MSA British Rally Championship, Todds Leap Rally NI this weekend, becoming the youngest driver to win a BRC event since current WRC front-runner Jari Matti-Latvala in 2003.

The victory with co-driver Dale Furniss came after a nail biting first day, in which first Alastair Fisher/Gordon Noble, then leaders Tom Cave/Ieuan Thomas crashed out of the event, which had started with torrential rain in Enniskillen.

Osian Pryce and Dale Furniss held their nerve for victory on a difficult event Osian Pryce and Dale Furniss held their nerve for victory on a difficult event

Rewarded for their consistency and tenacity were series leaders Jukka Korhonen and Marko Salminen, climbing from a lowly eleventh place on the opening stage. They extend their lead at the head of the tables to a huge seventeen points and must now be favourites for the title.

Northern Irish pride was upheld by Mark Donnelly, who recorded his best result this season in the Pirelli Star Driver car and helped DGM Sport stay at the top of the BRC Teams Cup. He and Welsh co-driver Dai Roberts eventually clicked with the Citroën DS3, buoying their confidence with some fastest stage times.

After an eventful first day in which DGM Sport lost Fisher from their stable and Morris Lubricants DMS, who only have Cave scoring, lost their man from the sharp end, Saturday looked like being a tussle between Pryce and Korhonen. Culina Palletforce crew John MacCrone and Phil Pugh were lucky not to receive more serious injuries as they crashed out at high speed too. They were both hospitalised, but given the all clear although MacCrone’s face was badly bruised and Pugh took a bump to the head too.

The Finn had already rocketed to second overnight, 4.4 seconds down on Pryce. But the Welshman had the bit between his teeth and belying his tender years, drew clear of his more experienced rival as the day progressed.
Korhonen admitted that he was playing it safe, having never driven on wet asphalt before and playing the championship game. The pair even made a little pact that if one backed off, so would the other!
Nevertheless, the result is a momentous one for the Citroën DS3 driver from Machynlleth and after the rally he was clearly pleased:
“We thought it was all over on the very first stage when we hit a bank, but we must have found the softest one in Ireland and to come back from sixth was fantastic. They were that hardest stages I have ever done, but it felt like the right time to win a BRC rally and I was three times hungrier for it than last year in Yorkshire, when we came so close.”

The sensation of day one had been County Fermanagh youngster Jon Armstrong and new co-driver Karl Atkinson in the Fiesta R2. He stunned onlookers with an outright fastest time on the day’s second stage, holding third place overnight. But Saturday’s second test would not be so lucky for the eighteen year-old. Despite crashing out of the event he was prevented from heading home by a phone call from the BRC team, informing him of his Pirelli Star Driver nomination. The nomination was well received by many fellow competitors and his local supporters too.

Armstrong’s departure meant all but the top pair shunted up one, fellow Irish Fiesta crew Daniel McKenna and Arthur Kierans taking third place and top Fiesta SportTrophy after some storming driving. They would be victorious once more in the BRC RallyTwo championship at the end of the event, eventually taking fifth place overall into the bargain.
Reigning Pirelli Star Driver Donnelly was one of two who leapfrogged McKenna, his countrymen Jonny Greer and Jonny Hart slipping past too for a season-best fourth. One of a very few English drivers, Callum Black also had a red letter day in yet another DS3, posting a personal best sixth after a rally that everyone agreed was ultra-tough.

With James Morgan on the ‘notes, the 22 year-old from Brackley managed to fend off Steve Røkland and James Aldridge, who were consoled with the RallyTwo runners-up spot and seventh overall. Alex Parpottas and Jamie Edwards took to the RallyTwo podium for the first time this season in third, finishing with a flourish of fastest Fiesta time on the last stage.

Rounding off the top ten were Citroën C2R2 crew David Carney/Ray Fitzpatrick and a pragmatic Tom Cave/Ieuan Thomas, carrying a ten minute penalty after their off. Carney was really disappointed to have spent nearly two minutes beached on a bank, but took top honours in the Ravenol Oils Newcomers Trophy and now lies second behind Armstrong and ahead of Ben Mckay.

Kit & Tim Leigh, Ben & Jason Mckay and Harry Threlfall/Andy Bull were the final finishers who didn’t use Super Rally, unanimous in their conclusion that it had been a truly demanding rally.

The battle for the MSA British Junior Rally Championship and Twingo Renaultsport R1 Trophy went the way of the Mckays again, drawing four points clear of Threlfall/Bull. Both drivers were blown away by the stages and conditions, but Mckay had pulled clear in the early stages and never looked back.
Of the cars that used Super Rally, Alastair Fisher & Gordon Noble grabbed enough points to stay second in the Citroën Racing Trophy behind Korhonen, with Cave third. And with another all-Citroën podium it is unsurprisingly Citroën UK which dominates the MSA British Manufacturers Rally Championship.

The final award, the Mantis Best Presented Car trophy and cheque for £250 wasn’t claimed at the weekend. Not because Joe McGonigle’s car wasn’t pristine, but because he was one of several caught out by the difficult conditions, crashing out close to the place that Armstrong came unstuck.

Catch all the action from this weekend’s MSA British Rally Championship on Sky Sports on Monday 2nd September. If you can’t wait until then, keep an eye on the BRC website early next week for the short news edit.
Todds Leap Rally NI results HERE MSA British Rally Championship points HERE