Clonakility calling for the British Rally Championship
The British Rally Championship heads across the Irish Sea, as the Clonakility Park Hotel West Cork Rally (13/14 March) hosts the second round of the pulsating series.
Britain’s premier rallying series visited West Cork in the Republic of Ireland for the first-time last season. For the second year running, the BRC championship protagonists are set to do battle over two-days through the legendary Irish lanes. Fourteen speed tests will equate to 135 competitive miles, which will provide the challenge on St Patrick’s weekend. What’s more, the best from the British series will go toe-to-toe with the Irish Tarmac Championship, adding a further spectacle for rally fans lining the competitive route.
On the opening round Matt Edwards and Darren Garrod got their season off to a scintillating start with victory on home soil on the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally in the new Ford Fiesta R5. The Pirelli-supported pairing will be eager to show the versatility of the new car, and Edwards in particular will be seeking revenge after missing out on the West Cork BRC win in 2019 by a mere 4.8 seconds.
The man who beat Edwards to the win last season was Tom Cave in his Hyundai i20 R5. The Welshman had a disappointing home round last time out, damaging a wheel and retiring whilst in the lead of the event. Cave and co-driver Dale Furniss will be desperate to bounce back and take victory in Cork to get their title tilt back on track.
The biggest news in the break between round one and two is the return of Volkswagen back into the BRC, this time with Osian Pryce and co-driver Noel O’Sullivan from Killarney at the helm of a new VW Polo GTI R5. Pryce returned to the series after two years away from the top-flight in spectacular style – taking a podium on his home event. The German machine will be an unknown quantity, but in Pryce’s hands, will be a formidable force as he vies to continue his rostrum run.
WRC star Rhys Yates was another series returnee in his Michelin-supported Ford Fiesta R5. The Englishman notched up the final podium position on the Cambrian and will be seeking more of the same on the Irish tarmac, a surface the Derbyshire ace goes particularly well on. Strengthening the M-Sport-backed drivers assault this year is James Morgan who expertly guided Tom Cave to victory last season, and Yates will be eager to draw on the Welshman’s knowledge this time round.
2019 Billy Coleman Award winner Josh McErlean from Kilrea will be tackling his first BRC event on home soil this weekend in a Hyundai i20 R5. The young Irishman has impressed many this season with Keaton Williams sat alongside, however, the pair suffered heartbreak on the first round when lying in third. The Anglo-Irish crew were forced into retirement after breaking the steering. Ireland’s latest hot property will revel in the return to Tarmac as he pushes for his first four-wheel-drive podium in the BRC.
Malaysian manufacturer Proton made a striking return to the BRC as Ollie Mellors and Ian Windress put the Iriz R5 through its paces on its BRC debut. The English partnership set some respectable times with the new car and eventually finished fourth overall in front of the sister car of James Williams and Dai Roberts. Williams enjoys the sealed-surface and could well spring a surprise in the new car. The Proton ranks will swell to three cars for round two, with multiple British Ladies Champion Nabila Tejpar stepping up into the top class. Tejpar will be joined by the vastly experienced Portuguese co-driver Hugo Magalhaes as the duo push for points on their BRC R5 debut.
Cathan McCourt from Omagh and 2010 BRC co-drivers Champion Barry McNulty from Enniskillen will be vying for their first BRC finish of the season. Another pair who were dogged by retirement on the opening round will look to make amends on the sealed-surface lanes around Clonakility. The Irish crew sealed sixth on the opening round of the Irish Tarmac Championship in Galway earlier this year and will hoping that form can continue this weekend in their Ford Fiesta R5.