Ulster Rally: Round four preview

Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship Round four - Ulster International Rally August 31st - September 1st The final asphalt round of the 2007 Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship, the Ulster International Rally, will be...

Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship
Round four - Ulster International Rally
August 31st - September 1st

The final asphalt round of the 2007 Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship, the Ulster International Rally, will be a stern test for teams and drivers alike

The classic bumpy lanes will once again bring the British and Irish series' together but the likely battle for the rally's overall lead will not concern British Championship rookie leader Wyn Humphreys.


It is probably not politically correct to call Gwyndaf Evans a "veteran", but the 48 year old has seen most of it before. Winner here in 2006, the 1996 British Rally Champion was a welcome returnee to the Championship as the 2006 Mitsubishi Evo Challenge winner, taking his first podium of the season with a second place on last months Jim Clark. Having scored consistently on the opening three events, Wyn Humphreys, the Welsh Stobart Teg Sport Subaru driver's third place on July's Rally Isle of Man put him top of the table, two points ahead of Guy Wilks. Humphreys'' impressive debut in the BRC comes after an equally impressive victory in the Welsh National Forest Championship.

Wilks pace has been outstanding, beginning the season with a textbook debut victory for Mitsubishi Motors UK and although an off cost him all but a single point on the Jim Clark, he bounced back with victory on Mark Higgins' home event, Rally Isle of Man. The Manxman took full advantage of Wilks' misfortune on the Jim Clark, only to have a similar incident on wet tarmac rob him of a possible podium position. He will contest the final joint BRC and ITRC event in his Group N Stobart Teg Sport Subaru to score points in both series, managing to balance both championships and an assault on the PWRC.

Armagh's own Darren Gass's season has been transformed by a change of car. His two fifth overall BRC places on asphalt bodes well for his local International and the Citroen C2 S1600 holds both the lead in Rally 3 and fourth overall in the points table. After a shaky start Rob Swann has improved in leaps and bounds in his Subaru, missing the podium by less than a second in the Isle of Man and citing his improvement as due to "proper tyres". Surprisingly Lorna Smith is sixth in the Championship. Her position is surprising not because of her gender, but because she is driving a 1600cc Dealer Team Suzuki GB Swift which produces much less power than the cars around her. The little Rally 2 class car has sported some battle scars this year, but none too serious to put her out of any events.

Another former BRC winner is David Higgins, whose 2004 win should have given him hope of a repeat this year. Problems for the debut of the Toyota Corolla S2000R on the Pirelli were soon forgotten with second on round two, however home territory proved a mixed bag. The Team TQ RED car set some fastest times, but an overheating engine cried enough on the final day, leaving him with just a handful of Super Rally points.

The top ten is rounded off by Zimbabwean Citroen C2 S1600 driver and Midlands MGZR man Matt Beebe. They share ninth place overall on 22 points apiece although African Rally Champion elect Rautenbach trails Stefan Davis' Puma in Rally 3, Beebe leads the hotly contested Rally 2 from Smith by two points.

The Ulster International Rally starts from the Mall in Armagh to the south west of Belfast on Friday 31st August at 2.45pm, returning to the central service area between loops of stages. The event finishes at 5.15pm on Saturday with the legendary awards party in the Armagh City Hotel later that evening. Follow the link at the bottom for more information.


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. Local Markethill teenager 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. The winner will then 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. In addition to this, the BRC now offers prize money for all registered competitors. Class winners can win up to £500 per event, with £100 for every finisher in each rally


The International Rally Drivers Club has announced a major initiative in conjunction with the 2007 Tesco 99 Octane MSA British Rally Championship. This is designed to recognise and reward championship contenders who show the greatest improvement in performance between rounds, with an overall prize awarded at the end of the season.

Club Vice President Malcolm Wilson says; "Since its inception the club has had the aim of supporting and helping international competitors both at home and abroad. I think this performance initiative is an ideal way to recognise the talent and progress made by individuals. With this type of support future talent will be recognised."

UK domiciled Irishman Fin McCaul was the first recipient of the award after the Jim Clark Rally. He said after the announcement, "We are still learning the car so it is a surprise. Any prize money is most welcome and it is great to have a bit of recognition."


Mitsubishi Motors UK closed the gap on Stobart Teg Sport to just three points after bagging the top two podium places on the Rally Isle of Man. But Humphreys efforts kept the reds at bay for the time being while Team TQ RED now holds a definite third, pulling six points clear of 2006 Champion Dealer Team Suzuki, despite David Higgins' problems in the new Toyota S2000.


Darren Gass leads not only Rally 3, but is also the highest placed Junior driver; a fitting position as he remains the youngest driver in the Championship. Matt Beebe leap-frogged Jason Pritchard for second in the standings although Swede Andreas Sjolander's Manx debut left him with a Rally 2 victory and runner up in the Juniors.


Fin McCaul's BMW 120D was joined by Simon Hughes in an AstraD on the Jim Clark and the Graham brothers will swap their lone Rally 1 class MGZR for the Ulster, instead wheeling out an identical spec oil burner. They are up against it though, as the two Irish tarmac regular Skoda Fabia Diesel VRS TDis will pit their now familiar cars against the new boys on home ground.


The Citroen C2R2 Cup battle has three winners from the first three rounds. Jason Pritchard leads by virtue of a first round win and two second places, victory spoiled on Jim Clark and Isle of Man by George Thomas and Martin Roberts respectively. Magherafelt driver Martin Laverty hold third despite having a difficult season with Thomas fourth, a distant eleven points adrift. Jamie Hickman missed the Manx action while Japanese newcomer Kazutomo Kusama has vowed to finish the season after a hat-trick of mechanical related retirements.


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.

International Rally Yorkshire 6 October Gravel
Wales Rally GB 30 November / 1 / 2 December Gravel


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About this article
Series BRC
Drivers Jim Clark , Guy Wilks , David Higgins , Malcolm Wilson , Gwyndaf Evans , Lorna Smith , Simon Hughes
Teams Citroën World Rally Team