Matthew back in se­ries for first time since 2005

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - By David Evans

Matthew Wil­son will re­turn to the Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship for the first time in 11 years when he starts the Pirelli Carlisle Rally later this month.

Wil­son, a stage win­ner at World Rally Cham­pi­onship level, runs M-sport’s Bent­ley race team op­er­a­tion and will use one of the Cum­brian firm’s Ford Fi­esta R5s on the next BRC round. Hav­ing com­peted reg­u­larly in the WRC ear­lier in his ca­reer, Wil­son’s last BRC out­ing was a vic­tory on the 2005 Track­rod Rally.

His last com­pet­i­tive out­ing ended in a WRC2 podium on the 2014 Rally GB.

“It’s been quite a while since I com­peted last,” Wil­son told MN. “I’m re­ally look­ing for­ward to get­ting back in the car again. What do I ex­pect? I don’t know, I’m go­ing to be com­pet­ing against guys who are match fit and driv­ing a lot more reg­u­larly than me.

“Look at Elfyn, he’s prob­a­bly driv­ing bet­ter now than he has in his whole life and he’ll be com­ing in straight off the back of Ar­gentina. Then there’s Fredrik Ah­lin and Tom Cave, to name just a cou­ple of quick driv­ers.”

Wil­son will use Evans’ Rally Ar­gentina R5, which will have been flown back in – along with M-sport’s other cars – from South Amer­ica just two days be­fore it has to leave for the Pirelli Carlisle Rally.

“We’re re­ly­ing on Elfyn get­ting through Ar­gentina with­out any prob­lems,” said Wil­son. “It’ll be quite a tight turn­around, but I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

Wil­son will run M-sport’s test Fi­esta R5 a week out from the event and hopes to make it to the pre-event shake­down in Kielder on the eve of the April 30 start.

“I haven’t been in Kielder since 2004, but the good thing is that I’ve made the deal a bit cheaper by choos­ing the clos­est BRC round to home!” he said. “It’s fan­tas­tic to see the BRC look­ing so strong again and it’s great to sup­port it, not that it re­ally needs our sup­port.”

Wil­son’s Fi­esta will be one of just three cars backed by Miche­lin – with lo­cal firms Pirelli and DMACK dom­i­nat­ing the en­try.

The 29-year-old will be co-driven by Stu­art Loudon, with the Scots­man also look­ing for­ward to his BRC re­turn.

“It’s a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity to work with Matthew,” said Loudon, who’s in-line for a re­turn to the Chi­nese Rally Cham­pi­onship along­side Alis­ter Mcrae this sea­son.

“I’m grab­bing this op­por­tu­nity to get into the BRC with a great driver and a great car with both hands.”

What a dif­fer­ence a year makes. Last year the Scot­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship was strug­gling, to say the least. Two rounds were can­celled for poor en­tries and you couldn’t help but won­der whether the SRC would sur­vive past a cou­ple of sea­sons.

Fast for­ward a year and the SRC has pro­duced a resur­gence greater than Le­ices­ter City Foot­ball Club ( ed: re­ally?!). And, like the Mid­lands foot­ball team, there’s a feel-good fac­tor about the cham­pi­onship.

Af­ter all, if you’ve ever been to an SRC round, you’ll know the roads are as good as any­where in Bri­tain. On the whole, the events are usu­ally the best, and ones I’d be very keen to par­take in should time and bud­get fall on my side.

Of course there’s the geo­graph­i­cal fac­tor; for English crews some of the rounds are hard to reach. But no harder than go­ing from Carlisle to Mine­head like mul­ti­ple crews did last week­end for the Som­er­set Stages. And although Ex­moor is bril­liant, it’d do well to com­pete with the smile-per-mile fac­tor of many of the SRC events.

So how has the cham­pi­onship bounced back? Cen­trally the or­gan­is­ers have worked tire­lessly to pro­duce a cal­en­dar that makes sense fun­da­men­tally for crews, and a re­freshed ap­proach to me­dia has re­ally added an edge. But per­haps one of the ma­jor fac­tors is some new qual­ity driv­ers with re­fresh­ing ma­chin­ery. Mainly two R5 en­tries.

The first leads the cham­pi­onship – Garry Pear­son. We all know Garry is a quick pi­lot from his days in a Peu­geot 208 R2, and he leads the se­ries through con­sis­tent run­ning de­spite be­ing new to his car. The other is John Maccrone, who has per­formed ad­mirably af­ter get­ting back in a car af­ter his Mull crash last year. A lot of credit is cer­tainly due to Maccrone for mak­ing the leap, and for the en­cour­age­ment of co-driver Rhi­anon Gel­somino, who has al­most cer­tainly played a ma­jor part in the duo’s strong per­for­mances in the se­ries. The re­sults haven’t quite been there yet, but a few quick stage times point to the crew’s class.

Dale Robert­son is an­other re­turnee who fin­ished sec­ond in the sea­son opener on the Snow­man Rally af­ter a year off. Part­nered with Wrc-stan­dard co-driver Stu­art Loudon they’re an­other crew to watch. They’re back for this week­end’s Spey­side Stages af­ter miss­ing the Bor­der Coun­ties.

As well as the new driv­ers up front, the re­turn­ing driv­ers need to be equally cred­ited. How hard would it be to stay aboard a ship that could be sink­ing? The crews who are back for more SRC in 2016 are be­ing re­warded for their loy­alty and rightly so. While the sit­u­a­tion may have been dire last year, it’s a les­son to all that a for­ward think­ing ap­proach can yield amaz­ing re­sults. Bravo SRC.

Wil­son re­turned to ral­ly­ing for GB in 2014 Wil­son is on Miche­lins for Pirelli Carlisle run Wil­son won BRC events in 2005

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