DAVID EVANS I
“Future is bright for British and Irish rallying”
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.