The Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship returns to gravel after a break of nearly six months, with the classic stages of International Rally Yorkshire. The now traditional base of Pickering showground will see competitors battle with...
The Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship returns to gravel after a break of nearly six months, with the classic stages of International Rally Yorkshire. The now traditional base of Pickering showground will see competitors battle with the change from the three previous asphalt events. Different suspension, tyres, car set-up, driving style and some super fast forest tracks will be amongst the challenges faces by the teams on the compact single day event.
After the Pirelli Rally in April and three tarmac events, 2004 Rally Yorkshire winner Mark Higgins appears to be on his way to his fourth BRC title and a straight hat-trick of title victories. But as he points out when asked, the BRC allows two dropped scores at the end of the season and as a seasoned campaigner, he takes that into account already. The tacticians amongst rally fans will spot that with this factored in, he and Guy Wilks are on equal points, with three points scoring opportunities remaining.
Higgins' Stobart TEG Sport team Mate Wyn Humphreys currently holds second place just three points behind, but his consistent debut season has helped put them ahead in the Teams' Championship. He will want to improve on his excellent third place in the Isle of Man and forget a gearbox problem that plagued him for the whole of the Ulster Rally.
Rob Swann is a BRC regular and counts 2007 as his best season yet. Despite currently being an excellent third in the points table, he had a frustrating Manx, missing the podium by 0.6 of a second. He then found himself in no-man's land on the Ulster with two minutes ahead and behind in a lonely fifth place. His privately entered Impreza is the first of three cars separated by just three points going to the North Yorkshire forests.
One point behind is the first of the two Mitsubishi Motors UK drivers, 1996 BRC Champion Gwyndaf Evans, who has two runners-up spots from the previous two events. Speculation has it that the 2006 Evo Challenge winner may be subject to team orders, but the ever youthful Evans will want to add the event to his win tally while he has the machinery to do so.
In an apparently lowly fifth place is his team-mate Guy Wilks, whose two Super Rally finishes may have only added a single point to his total, but have helped to place Mitsubishi second in the teams' championship. Local support will undoubtedly extend from County Durham for the winner of the first gravel round of the season, although he will have a difficult job in Yorkshire.
Sixth place is African Rally Champion Conrad Rautenbach, but he will be absent, instead contesting Rally Catalunya in his Citroen C2 S1600. Scot Lorna Smith, recently crowned as top Irish N2 and lady driver, is seventh, a full ten places ahead of her Dealer Team Suzuki GB team mate James Wozencroft. She has had some lucky escapes in 2007, rolling the car on Ulster, but the little Swift has taken the knocks and finished each event.
Darren Gass's Citroen C2 S1600 has transformed his season, swapping from a Fiesta after the opening round. This means though, that his experience in the C2 is limited to asphalt and he will need to re-learn how to drive the little front wheel car all over again in Yorkshire. With fellow Irish youngster Jonny Greer missing the event, 19 year-old Darren resumes his position as youngest driver in the BRC. He has been pushing ever closer to the podium on tarmac but should still go well on the loose, coming from a Rallycross background.
Level on eighth place points with Gass is another Northern Irish driver Philip Morrow. He has been contesting the Evo Challenge as well as the BRC and is in an excellent position the win the one make series. He is also in a very strong position to upset the BRC leaders' points tally, having been third on both Jim Clark and Ulster and is extremely capable on gravel too.
The Sun's reporter Rob Gill has been improving in his Mitsubishi all year and currently lies tenth in the series. He is a keen supporter of the British Rally Championship but also has an eye on the World stage, helping to manage the career of a certain Guy Wilks.
An unexpected entry from the 2006 Rally Yorkshire winner, Ryan Champion, may upset the points at the top; Champion resides just 20 miles from Pickering in Castleton and although he was third on the Pirelli, he has not taken part on the tarmac rounds, so lies 17th in the series. He could easily factor on the podium again and take points from the regulars, potentially affecting the outcome at the end of the season.
PIRELLI STAR DRIVER COMPETITION
Undoubtedly the ultimate prize in the 2007 Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship is the fantastic Pirelli Star Driver Award. This is an incentive for all competitors to put that extra effort into their own battles throughout the year. With both Higgins brothers discounting themselves from the award, it gives other drivers an even greater chance to shine.
Guy Wilks impressed the judges on the first round while C2R2 driver George Thomas went forward as the second finalist for the end of season "Pirelli Star Driver" shootout. Armagh's Darren Gass's mature approach and excellent Manx result means he will join all the selected Pirelli Star Drivers to take part in a final selection competition. His fellow countryman Philip Morrow added his name to the list of finalists on home soil with a fine podium finish. The winner of the shootout will secure a fully funded drive in the 2008 Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship, with the potential of World Rally Championship events not ruled out.
MSA BRITISH TEAMS CHAMPIONSHIP
In the Teams' Championship the advantage has swung to and fro since a tie on the first round between Stobart TEG Sport and Mitsubishi Motors UK. The upper hand has remained with Higgins and Humphreys' Subarus, but Wilks and Evans will not give up without a fight. There has been a change at Team TQ as David Higgins has swapped his Toyota for a Subaru, but Hugh Evans retains his Mitsubishi which will have been repaired after an Ulster shunt. Just two points behind is Dealer Team Suzuki, now unlikely to retain their 2006 title, but safe in the knowledge that their sterling efforts have contributed to spin off Swift Sport Cup one make series for 2008.
MSA BRITISH JUNIOR RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Matt Beebe closed the gap to Darren Gass by a couple of points on Ulster, but despite being the youngest BRC driver on Rally Yorkshire, Gass will not let his Championship title go without a fight. Jason Pritchard is third but immediately behind him is a tie for fourth between Wozencroft and Zimbabwean Rautenbach. As he is playing no part in Yorkshire, Beebe will be pushing hard to grasp the advantage.
Steve Graham returns in his new AstraD, after his inclusion in the diesel was originally in question. He and brother Tony will provide stiff opposition to Fin McCaul in his BMW 120D. The English domiciled Irishman missed his home event with family commitments, but will be back to add to his two win tally.
CITROËN C2R2 CUP
The Citroen C2R2 Cup was won on the opening round by Jason Pritchard. He now leads again, retaking the top spot from Martin Roberts, who had a nightmare first day in Ulster. Pritchard's 100% scoring record leaves him eighteen points clear, but when dropped scores are taken into account at the end of the year, the one make series will undoubtedly be closed up. Martin Laverty took second on home ground in Ulster but George Thomas won for a second time, although with two zero scores, he can't afford any slip-ups on the final events.
Rally 4 (R4) includes cars with a 2.0 litre capacity, traditionally known as the Showroom, or Group N4 class. They typically have an unmodified engine, turbo, brakes and retain the original body shape and running-gear layout. R4 also includes the new Super 2000 category cars which are 2.0 litre normally aspirated, using a controlled four wheel drive and braking system. The base car does not need to be 4WD and the engine can be from any model in the manufacturers' range. The all new Diesel Rally Cup championship cars are also included in this category. Again, typically 2.0 turbo diesel models that fall within the traditional "Showroom" or N4 class.
Rally 3 (R3) formerly referred to as Super 1600, the cars are two wheel drive, but have heavily modified engine and brakes, although they retain the original running gear layout, they are also allowed bodywork modifications to accommodate wider track that helps them stick to the road.
Rally 2 (R2) Includes cars with a capacity under 2000cc, traditionally referred to as "Showroom" classes N2 and N3, but now includes 1600cc cars up to "kit" variant. They are typically front wheel drive having unmodified engine and brakes, while both retain the original body shape and running-gear layout. This category welcomes some one-make championship cars such as the Citroen C2R2 Cup.
Rally 1 (R1) Includes cars with a capacity under 1400cc. The simplest revision as this category encompasses the former "Showroom" N1 category. Cars are typically front wheel drive with standard engine, brakes and no bodywork modifications.