MIL­LIONS COULD BE IN­VESTED IN UK DRIV­ERS

Motor Sport News - - Rally News -

Mo­tor­sport News can re­veal de­tails of Rally Team UK’S multi-mil­lion­pound bid to de­liver the next gen­er­a­tion of Bri­tish rally stars to the World Rally Cham­pi­onship.

De­tails of the new ini­tia­tive have been spread­ing since the new year – and were con­firmed when the Rally Team UK name was launched on so­cial me­dia last week.

The in­ten­tion is to of­fer sev­eral Bri­tish driv­ers the op­por­tu­nity to progress through the ranks in cars – four Hyundai i20 R5s and six Ford Fi­esta R2TS – which will be pur­chased by Rally Team UK.

Chris In­gram and Rhys Yates look set to be the high­est pro­file driv­ers with spec­u­la­tion that they could com­pete in WRC 2 un­der the RTUK ban­ner. The other two Hyundais are reck­oned to be set for the Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship, where they will be driven by Osian Pryce and Meirion Evans.

Com­pet­ing in a va­ri­ety of ju­nior pro­grammes, MN un­der­stands Tommi Mead­ows, James Wil­liams, Ge­orge Le­p­ley, James Mcder­mott, Gina Walker and Fin­lay Ret­son will be driv­ing the M-sport-sourced Fi­es­tas.

All the driv­ers – who have been is­sued with draft con­tracts – at­tended a meet­ing with Paul Cur­son, the man be­hind RTUK, and for­mer Ford Mo­tor­sport di­rec­tor Martin Whi­taker, who has ac­cepted a role as the team’s CEO.

Whi­taker said: “We have been work­ing very hard on Rally Team UK for the last month. Un­for­tu­nately, Au­tosport In­ter­na­tional came just a lit­tle bit too quickly for us to make a full for­mal launch, but we have re­leased the team name and some of the struc­ture.

“I can’t talk about names of driv­ers be­cause we’re still in the con­tract stage with them. I would ex­pect to have news on the driv­ers in the very near fu­ture, in the next two weeks. We have a lot of work to do, the new sea­son is right around the cor­ner with the world and Bri­tish cham­pi­onships start­ing very soon.”

Whi­taker wouldn’t be drawn on the fund­ing re­quired for the im­me­di­ate pur­chase of more than a mil­lion pounds’ worth of rally cars.

“All I can tell you is that the pro­gramme is funded out of the pri­vate sec­tor,” he said.

MN un­der­stands Cur­son’s own rally car leas­ing firm is in­volved.

Whi­taker un­der­lined the im­por­tance of the project, adding: “The em­pha­sis here has to be on the way we’re go­ing about this, this is a fully-formed, funded and well-struc­tured pro­gramme. It’s about giv­ing young­sters a path on which they can de­velop them­selves to move to­wards the top of the sport. And it’s not just about driv­ing the car, Rally Team UK has all the nec­es­sary ar­eas such as fit­ness, nutri­tion, me­dia work and coach­ing cov­ered.

“Bri­tain has an amaz­ing her­itage in mo­tor­sport and we have pro­duced some great driv­ers, but it’s been 20 years since Colin [Mcrae] and Richard [Burns] and we haven’t re­ally had any­body at the top of the sport since then – that’s not a crit­i­cism, it’s a fact of life. We’ve had the ta­lent, but they haven’t had the op­por­tu­nity to ac­tu­ally get to the top.

“This is a very big in­vest­ment in Bri­tish ral­ly­ing.”

The cars are ex­pected to be run by Meirion Evans’ father Mel Evans, who runs his own epony­mous prepa­ra­tion firm in Wales.

BRC man­ager Iain Camp­bell told MN: “We’ve seen some very suc­cess­ful driver man­age­ment and de­vel­op­ment mod­els around the world and it would be great if the UK could have one of its own. This is a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity for these driv­ers.”

In­gram, who scored a WRC 2 podium on his de­but in the se­ries in Turkey last sea­son, said: “It’s very flat­ter­ing to be of­fered a place in Rally Team UK and it’s def­i­nitely one of the op­tions we’re look­ing at in the com­ing sea­son.”

Yates was of a sim­i­lar opin­ion. He added: “This is a re­ally ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­nity for the fu­ture. What a prospect! And not just for me, but for ral­ly­ing in Bri­tain. It’s very ex­cit­ing.”

Whi­taker con­firmed he had dis­cussed the pro­gramme with Mo­tor­sport UK chair­man David Richards as well as other lead­ing fig­ures in Bri­tish ral­ly­ing.

Loeb (above) was hurt by road­book is­sues

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