DAVID EVANS I

“Fu­ture is bright for Bri­tish and Ir­ish ral­ly­ing”

Motor Sport News - - Rally News -

s there a bet­ter place to be a rally fan than Bri­tain and Ire­land right now? I don’t think so.

Granted, France might have dom­i­nated the World Rally Cham­pi­onship for the last 12 years, but the fu­ture’s Bri­tish (and Ir­ish).

OK, maybe not the im­me­di­ate fu­ture, but next sea­son Kris Meeke, Craig Breen and El­fyn Evans have the chance to halt what will then be a 13-year-old na­tional ma­chine in its tracks.

And here’s the best bit, be­hind those front­line world cham­pi­onship stars, there’s more tal­ent com­ing through the ranks. Have you seen the way Osian Pryce, Gus Green­smith and Jon Arm­strong have dom­i­nated this year’s Drive DMACK Fi­esta Tro­phy? It’s been hugely im­pres­sive and all three richly de­serve a leg-up to the next level.

Then there’s Chris In­gram, fi­nally break­ing his 2016 Ju­nior ERC duck in the Czech Repub­lic last month, demon­strat­ing he has pace as well as class-lead­ing con­sis­tency. There’s more good news in the equiv­a­lent Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship class, where Rob Dug­gan has shown a clean pair of heels to fan­cied chal­lengers.

The Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship is an­other cause for cel­e­bra­tion; a year on the bench has served the se­ries well ahead of a con­fi­dent, com­pet­i­tive and en­ter­tain­ing re­turn this sea­son. The ral­lies have slot­ted back to­gether nicely. Credit where it’s due, Iain Camp­bell has done the hugely com­pe­tent job we all knew he was ca­pa­ble of. One has lit­tle con­cern for his abil­ity to build on those solid foun­da­tions in 2017.

It’s the same story at world cham­pi­onship level. Rally GB ranks right along­side the best on the planet. This isn’t me be­ing jin­go­is­tic, I’m in the priv­i­leged po­si­tion to see un­der the skin of ral­lies across the world and few are run with the ca­pa­ble ex­per­tise rally con­trol will boast on Dee­side next month.

And Bri­tish crafts­man­ship will be well rep­re­sented in Wales – as it is around the world – by M-sport. Cock­er­mouth re­mains Bri­tain’s last bas­tion of fac­tory prepa­ra­tion in the front­line WRC. There have been ques­tion marks raised over the pace of the cur­rent car, but Cum­bria de­liv­ered its an­swer in Poland, when Ott Tanak came within an ace of win­ning one of the fastest ral­lies in the world. You only have to look at the devel­op­ment of the 2017 Fi­esta to see there’s still a se­ri­ous pool of tal­ent within Dovenby Hall’s ever-ex­pand­ing walls.

Matthew Wil­son demon­strated that new car’s po­ten­tial again last week. And co-driv­ing him was Stu­art Loudon, which makes it four Bri­tish and Ir­ish co-driv­ers help­ing shape the world cham­pi­onship fu­ture of Hyundai, Citroen and M-sport’s Ford.

And it doesn’t end there, we shouldn’t for­get our eight-time State­side su­per­star David Hig­gins. Or we could just talk about his brother Mark, who lapped the Manx TT course in an Im­preza at an av­er­age of more than 128mph ear­lier this year and has en­tered the Manx with DMACK.

Like I said, Bri­tain’s (and Ire­land – and the Isle of Man, ob­vi­ously…) not a bad place to be right now.

BCCC Free­lander Chal­lenge crew Louisa Felice and Jess Reynolds will round off their sea­son by com­pet­ing in the Wales Rally GB Na­tional event in Oc­to­ber.

Felice and Reynolds fin­ished third in their de­but Free­lander Chal­lenge sea­son and they are in a close bat­tle for sec­ond this year.

“It will be a huge chal­lenge but a big thrill to com­pete on the same stages as the world rally stars,” said Louisa. “We’re look­ing for­ward to us­ing pacenotes and do­ing mul­ti­ple stages, it’ll be dif­fer­ent from the BCCC.”

The pair will con­tinue their Free­lander Chal­lenge cam­paign at the week­end when round five takes place at Bov­ing­ton Camp in Dorset.

They will form part of a two-car Free­lander team with Ian Lin­ford.

Adam En­twhis­tle and Chris Rat­ter were the first Free­lander fin­ish­ers on last year’s Wales Rally GB, man­ag­ing 41st po­si­tion over­all.

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