The 2014 MSA British Rally Championship kicks off this weekend, with a depleted field set to commence battle on the Pirelli Carlisle RB Foundation Rally.
In its third year using a two-wheel drive only format, the championship has struggled for entries across it’s classes, particularly the renamed headline ‘BRC1’ class.
Reigning champion Jukka Korhonen has stepped up to the FIA European Rally Championship for this year, with fellow front-runners from last season Alistair Fisher and Tom Cave joining the WRC-supporting Junior WRC and Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy series’ respectively.
That leaves two of the other standout drivers from 2013 to headline the 2014 BRC entry, reigning RallyTwo champion Daniel McKenna, and overall vice-champion Osian Pryce.
McKenna was selected at the end of last season as the latest victor of the Pirelli Star Driver competition, meaning he will compete in 2014 in a Pirelli-funded Citroen DS3 R3 with David Greer Motorsport. alongside co-driver Arthur Kierans.
That recognition came after McKenna was the star of the field in the R2 class last season, winning four of the six rounds. While the DS3 is a new car to him, he feels he’s acclimatised to it well and is ready to challenge for victory from the opening round.
Pryce will be stiff competition for the Irishman though, with the Welshman having been the star driver in the championship over the second half of last season with three outright wins on the final three events.
Those results saw him storm to second overall in the points, earning him the BRC ‘Driver of the Year’ accolade in the process. Returning with Dale Furniss alongside him once again, Pryce will certainly be a force to be reckoned with in his Citroen DS3 R3.
Citroen DS3’s are once again dominating the entry for the main R3 class. While there are only half the number starting the season that were regularly competing in 2013, the DS3 has once again proven to be the car of choice in the BRC.
Callum Black returns this year, hoping continuity with car and co-driver, James Morgan, will be the key to a successful third BRC campaign. After taking a pair of top six finishes last season, the 22 year old will be hoping to challenge for wins this time out.
Also hoping to be in podium contention will be Timothy Cathcart and David Carney, who are both stepping up to the main R3 class for the first time. Catchart has the vastly experienced Dai Roberts alongside him, while Carney is sticking with Citroen machinery, upgrading his Citroen C2 R2 to a DS3 R3.
The battle to succeed McKenna as the R2 champion is set to be a closely contested one, with four different makes to be represented in the class field.
2012 MSA British Junior Rally Champion Garry Pearson returns with the Peugeot 208, a car which will be making its official championship debut. The Scotsman completed a part-campaign last season in a Fiesta R2.
Taking him on will be three drivers stepping up from the BRC Challenge, Aaron McClure, John Byrnes and Calvin Beattie, as well as Venezuelan driver Rene Dias Torcato.
McClure will campaign a Ford Fiesta, having been a Challenge front-runner in 2013, while Irishmen Byrnes and Beattie will run a Renault Clio and Ford Fiesta respectively. Lotus F1 engineer Torcato meanwhile will compete in a Citroen C2.
The MSA British Junior Rally Championship entry meanwhile features reigning BRC Challenge Star of the Future winner Chris Wheeler, former Under 18 World Karting Championship driver Gus Greensmith has made the switch from circuit racing to rallying, former BTRDA rally competitor Jonathan Jones and two-time Formula 1000 Junior Champion Cameron Davies.
With the original season opener, the Rally North Wales, unfortunately postponed in March due to a lack of entries, the Pirelli Carlisle RB Foundation Rally will now open a six event season.
The Jim Clark Rally, RSAC Scottish Rally, Todds Leap Ulster Rally and two-round Rally Isle of Man follow before the season finale, Rallye Dorset, on 17/18 October, with the best five scores from the seven rounds counting towards the driver’s final championship standings.
While entry numbers are lower than hoped, in recent years the BRC has produced some superb, ultra close rallying action with its two-wheel drive format, and with McKenna and Pryce set for a titanic battle for the title, there should be more of the same this season.