Ari Vatanen. Hannu Mikkola. Pentti Airikkala. Tapio Laukkanen. Marko Ipatti. Jukka Korhonen.
After a hard-fought, ultra-competitive 2013 MSA British Rally Championship season, it was Jukka Korhonen and co-driver Marko Salminen who emerged victorious to add his name to the roll call of Finnish BRC champions.
The second season of the new two wheel drive era was an intriguing year, producing three new BRC rally winners, a first-time champion and a number of drivers tipped for bright futures in the sport.
After the postponement of the season-opening Rally North Wales, it was on the Pirelli RBF in May that the season got underway. Korhonen hit the ground running in Carlisle, leading from start to finish to take his first BRC win, the first Finnish victor since Jari-Matti Latvala in 2003.
He carried momentum from that win onto the Jim Clark Rally, leading comfortably overnight after five stage wins on the opening day. While that lead was cut back on day two, he held on to take victory on only his third-ever tarmac rally, completing a superb start to the season that proved to be the key to his title success.
While he didn’t win another event over the season, the 2011 Pirelli Star Driver winner didn’t really give his rivals a chance to catch him up in the points, securing second place finishes on the next three events in his Citroen DS3 R3.
That meant Korhonen needed just a third place finish at the season finale, Rallye Sunseeker International, to guarantee him the title honours, and that’s exactly the result the 29 year old secured to become the first Finnish BRC champion since Marko Ipatti in 2000.
Tom Cave and Alistair Fisher were the Finn’s main title threats through the season, with both drivers heading into the Sunseeker with a chance to overhaul the points leader. While neither succeeded, they both enjoyed hugely positive campaigns in their respective Citroen DS3’s.
The Todds Leap Rally Northern Ireland in August, the fourth event of the season, was the turning point for both their championship challenges. Both drivers crashed out on a dramatic opening day, giving Korhonen a healthy advantage at the front they couldn’t overhaul.
That was the only blotch on Cave’s result sheet for the season though, the Welshman finishing every other event in the top four, with a best finish of second on the Jim Clark helping him to third in the final championship standings.
Fisher meanwhile had already tasted the BRC winners champagne for the first time prior to that Ulster incident, having taken a hard-fought, long-awaited victory on the RSAC Scottish Rally. Two further podium finishes capped of a strong BRC season, which he juggled with some outings in the R3 class of the WRC.
The form driver over the second half of the season though was Osian Pryce. The Welshman showed strong pace over the first three events, but when the series reached Ulster it all came together. The 20 year old bounced back from hitting a bank on the opening stage to take victory, becoming the youngest BRC event winner for a decade.
He emerged from a closely-fought duel with Korhonen next time out in Yorkshire to card his second successive win, before going on to lead the season finale from start-to-finish to complete his hat-trick and snatch an unlikely second in the championship.
One driver who probably won’t look back at this season with fondest is Mark Donnelly. The Northern Irishman showed glimpses of the pace that secured him the Sunseeker win last season and the Pirelli Star Driver award, but never truly clicked with his prize Citroen DS3 R3.
The 22 year old’s pace improved as the season went on, and while he wasn’t able to get himself in the position to challenge for rally wins by the end of the campaign, a best finish of third in Ulster helped him to a top six championship finish.
Completing the Citroen DS3 clean sweep at the front of the field were Jonny Greer and John MacCrone. While BRC veteran Greer wasn’t able to reach his podium finishing heights of previous years, four consecutive top five finishes ensured he just pipped Donnelly to fifth in the championship.
MacCrone had a rollercoaster year meanwhile. He challenged for the lead on the Jim Clark before suffering brake problems, then finished a seasons-best fourth in Scotland before suffering a high-speed shunt at Ulster.
While the main R3 class runners grabbed the headlines over the course of the season, some of the most impressive individual performances of the campaign came from within the BRC RallyTwo class, where driver’s pushed their R2 machines to the limits.
While Steve Rokland took the class win on the opening event, Daniel McKenna quickly emerged as the star man in the field. Class wins on the next four events, including a seasons-best overall finish of fifth in Ulster, meant he wrapped up the class title, and the Fiesta SportTrophy honours, on the final weekend.
That wasn’t the only honours the 26 year old would end the season with though. His class victory on the Jim Clark earnt him a Pirelli Star Driver award nomination, and a superb performance in the award shoot-out at the end of the year won him the prize of a fully-paid season in a Citroen DS3 R3 for 2014.
After McKenna’s mid-season dominance, Rokland returned to the top step of the class podium on the Sunseeker. Those two victories, along with three other class podiums, ensured the Norwegian was a comfortable second in the final RallyTwo standings.
While McKenna and Rokland impressed all campaign, arguably the stand-out individual R2 performance of the season came from Jon Armstrong. On day one in Ulster, the 18 year old set four top three overall stage times, including the outright fastest time on SS2, to sit third overnight ahead of a host of the quicker R3 machines.
While his incredible run came to an end early on day two, his heroics turned heads and deservedly earned him a Pirelli Star Driver nomination. Next time out in Yorkshire, the Northern Irishman produced his best class finish of second behind McKenna.
Alongside McKenna and Armstrong, the other drivers to earn Pirelli award nominations over the course of the season were Rokland, Alex Parpottas, Ruary MacLeod and Benjamyn McKay, the award catering for just entries into the junior BRC classes this season.
McKay’s nomination came as a reward for a superb season in his Renault Twingo R1 that saw him secure the MSA British Junior Rally Championship, the Twingo Renaultsport R1 Trophy UK and the RAVENOL Oils Newcomers Trophy.
Fisher and Donnelly’s performances over the season earned the BRC Teams Cup for DGM Sport, while the DS3’s monopoly of the R3 category meant Citroen UK’s defence of the MSA British Manufacturers Rally Championship was a foregone conclusion.
For Korhonen, who also won the Citroen Racing Trophy, series runner-up Pryce, third-placed Cave, McKenna and McKay, their successes earned them all free entry onto the WRC season-ending Wales Rally GB.
The 2013 MSA British Rally Championship will go down as a successful 55th season of the UK’s top rallying series. While there will be hopes for more manufacturers represented in the R3 class next year, the ingredients are there for a successful 2014 and beyond.
Final 2013 MSA British Rally Championship Standings:
1. Jukka Korhonen – 100pts
2= Osian Pryce – 92pts
2= Tom Cave – 92pts
4. Alistair Fisher – 91.5pts
5. Jonny Greer – 77.5pts
6. Mark Donnelly – 77pts
7. Callum Black – 61.5pts
8. John MacCrone – 60pts
Final 2013 BRC RallyTwo Championship Standings:
1. Daniel McKenna – 107pts
2. Steve Rokland – 100pts
3. Alex Parpottas – 84pts
4. Benjamyn McKay – 65pts
5. Jon Armstrong – 60pts
6. David Carney – 57pts
7. Harry Threlfall – 54.5pts
8. Ruary MacLeod – 45pts