The stage is set for a BRC Pirelli Carlisle RB Foundation Rally

The stage is set for a BRC Pirelli Carlisle RB Foundation Rally

27.04.2014: MSA British Rally Championship Round 1 Pirelli Carlisle RB Foundation Rally - 3/4 May 2014

MSA British Rally Championship Round 1
Pirelli Carlisle RB Foundation Rally - 3/4 May 2014

Pryce & Furniss - favourites for the title, or will they succumb to pressure?

The best thing about the opening round of the 2014 MSA British Rally Championship, the Pirelli Carlisle RB Foundation Rally, is the anticipation of a new name on the winner’s trophy – and the knowledge that it will be a fair and furious battle from start to finish.

The yawning ditches of the infamous Kielder Forest complex and the twisty nature of the adjacent Kershope stages mean a true challenge for all the competitors on this classic rally.

Carlisle United Football Club has generously given up its Brunton Park home ground for next weekend’s rally season kick-off, as the service area will be hosted there for the very first time. And Saturday’s super fast stages are preceded by a bit of pomp and ceremony in Carlisle City Centre, as the parade, autograph session and official rally start all take place there from 9.30am.

But it is in the stages where it is anybody’s guess who will emerge victorious, so buckle up for a bit of background on some of the runners and riders.

Carrying the prestigious number one on the door of their Citroën DS3 are last year’s championship runners-up Osian Pryce and Dale Furniss; bet against them at your peril! However, the Welsh youngster’s rise from third in 2012 to second last year, does come with some pressure to go that final step and the question will be, can they handle it?

Last year a puncture cost them any chance of victory in Kielder, but they must hope that three wins at the end of 2013 will give them a psychological advantage.

Ireland probably offers the closest challenge to Pryce’s goal, coming in the form of last year’s Pirelli Star Driver Daniel McKenna and his steadfast co-driver Arthur Kierans. They step up from the high revving Fiesta to another DS3, the weapon of choice of the British Rally Champion for the past two years.

Their steed is part of the stunning Pirelli prize drive and they have already tested its capabilities at home, taking sixth overall on the fourth round of the European Rally Championship in Ireland.

And so to Callum Black and James Morgan. A tried and tested partnership in a tried and tested package; their distinctive black DS3 took them to sixth on two of last year’s rallies, one on asphalt and one on gravel. They will need a big push, a bit of luck and a confidence-building first event to set their season on schedule, but certainly not to be overlooked for a place on the podium this year.

Another DS3 and another with championship aspirations, having stepped up to the top BRC1 class this season, is Timothy Cathcart. The nineteen year-old from the Ulster Rally’s home town of Enniskillen has a secret weapon in his quest for victory though. The vastly experienced Dai Roberts will sit alongside to guide his youthful charge, hopefully helping to dispel any memories of the driver’s non-finish on last year’s ‘Pirelli’.

Ireland’s pot of rich rallying talent is once again on show in the next BRC1 pilot. Sticking with Citroën in their move from C2 to DS3 are County Mayo’s David Carney and fellow Irishman Ray Fitzpatrick. Last year saw them get a great grounding in the BRC events, starting all six. Recording non-finishes in Scotland and Yorkshire probably cost them a podium place in the RallyTwo category, but they ended the season well, taking a fifth place in their class on the final event.

A number of the BRC2 crews have a fighting chance at the overall podium too, their story already told HERE, but further back in the running order are the protagonists for the BRC3 and MSA British Junior Rally Championship title.

Every one of the wannabe Junior Champions is new to the main championship and although the only female driver in the main series, Kim Baker, does bring plenty of experience, it is from the co-driver’s seat and it all looks very different from behind the wheel.

It is not polite to ask a lady’s age, so it is suffice to say that Miss Baker and co-driver Paul Heath do not qualify as juniors – just! So the fight for that title is a boys’ own affair and they all bring something different to the table.

Reigning NGK Spark Plugs BRC Challenge Star of the Future Chris Wheeler heads-up the juniors, joined this year by Charlotte Banner – a newcomer to the BRC. They both have a lot to learn with a new partnership, making pace notes on gravel for the first time, but Chris does carry a slight advantage, having contested the events before in the same Fiesta, albeit in the ‘Challenge support series.

Former Under 18 World Karting Championship driver Gus Greensmith has made the bold move from circuit to rally and his car control is certainly excellent. Although the distraction of a team-mate alongside in his Fiesta may be the hardest thing to master, Carl Williamson has plenty of successful seat-time to help the seventeen year-old make the transition.

Jonathan Jones and Jez Rogers have already had some success this year, taking victory in their newly acquired Fiesta on the Tour of Epynt. Another crew new to the BRC, they will need to draw on their experience of BTRDA events to help climb to the top of the BRC Juniors.

The last of the Juniors is Cameron Davies, who has Phil Hall in the co-driver’s seat. At the tender age of sixteen, Cameron became the youngest ever ‘works’ supported rally driver and he brings championship titles aplenty to his first season in the BRC. 2009 and 2010 Formula 1000 Junior Champion, he cut his teeth on gravel in the BTRDA’’s Rally First series, so should be a force to be reckoned with in his Twingo.

Whoever the crew member, whatever experience he or she brings to the team, the Pirelli Carlisle RB Foundation Rally on Saturday 3rd and Sunday 4th May is a fitting stage on which to start a shiny new season, now all we need is cracking weather please.

- Simon Moss, photo Jakob Ebrey Photography


27.04.2014 / MaP

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