WILSON RETURNS TO BRC WITH R5 FIESTA
Matthew back in series for first time since 2005
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.