Why Rally GB is a happy hunting ground for Brits
Since the WRC began in 1973, how many different British drivers have won their home round of the series? And how many times?
Unfortunately, on the face of it, the maths doesn’t take too long. It’s three: Roger Clark, Colin Mcrae and Richard Burns. Total number of victories from 31 years in the full World Rally Championship? Seven.
Well, that’s not exactly the full story. Actually, there has been a Brit on the podium’s top step 18 times in 31 years, 19 if we include Irishmen as well. How’s that? Because 12 times a British or Irish co-driver has won the RAC Rally as it was or Wales Rally GB as it is with an overseas driver alongside them.
Most recently, Phil Mills won his home event four times on the bounce with Petter Solberg. Before his switch to sit alongside Colin Mcrae, Nicky Grist won a snowy 1993 RAC alongside Juha Kankkunen. Four years earlier, Ronan Mcnamee and Pentti Airikkala won for Mitsubishi.
Terry Harryman scored his only RAC win in 1984 with Ari Vatanen, while Henri Toivonen won the event twice with two different homegrown co-drivers: Neil Wilson in 1985 and Paul White in 1980. Before that, Henry Liddon shared an early Seventies hat-trick with legendary flying Finn Timo Makinen.
Not wanting to leave them out, Scotsmen Derek Ringer and Robert Reid both won – and took world titles in these woods – alongside Richard Burns and Colin Mcrae respectively.
British co-drivers have always been big news at home.
And they still are. Look at the entry list and you’ll see factory Citroen co-driver Scott Martin’s name alongside Craig Breen; Michael Orr with Yazeed Al-rajhi in a Ford Fiesta RS WRC and Hyundai star Seb Marshall with Dutchman Kevin Abbring in an i20 R5.
Coming from across the Irish Sea from his home in Killarney is, however, the man who has called Kris Meeke home to victory in Portugal and Finland this season: Paul Nagle.
Reconnaissance and pacenotes were only permitted on the RAC Rally from 1990 onwards. Before that, British and Irish co-drivers offered a genuine and tangible advantage in terms of map-reading ability and local knowledge on the event.
Since then, however, the strength and depth of navigators coming from these parts simply hasn’t dropped away and still we continue to develop them at a tremendous rate.
During one week earlier this year, British and Irish co-drivers were present testing 2017-specification World Rally Cars for Citroen (Nagle, Martin and Chris Patterson), Hyundai (Marshall) and M-sport’s all-new Ford Fiesta RS WRC with Stuart Loudon working with Matthew Wilson.
There’s no sign of that talent dropping off.