Osian Pryce got his 2014 MSA British Rally Championship campaign off to a perfect start with a commanding win on the season opening Pirelli Carlisle RB Foundation Rally, his fourth consecutive BRC victory.
Pryce headed into the event as the pre-season championship favourite after winning the final three events of 2013 to finish second in the overall standings, and the Welshman proved why he’s so hotly tipped for success with a dominant performance in the Kielder forest.
The event kicked off with two loops in the fearsome forest on Saturday, and Pryce certainly hit the ground running with co-driver Dale Furniss. In their Citroen DS3 R3, they went quickest in five of the opening day’s six stages, building up a 25 second lead ahead of the overnight halt.
Pryce lost no momentum on Sunday’s four damp stages either, winning all four to power to a 46 second victory, taking the lead in the overall championship, the new BRC Gravel Cup, and the Citroen Racing Trophy in the process.
“Very happy, everything went to plan,” said Pryce. “We came here to win, but it’s my fifth time on the Pirelli and probably the first time I’ve had any luck on it, so it’s very long overdue. We quickly realised that at 90 per cent we could still beat Daniel (McKenna), so that’s what we did. We haven’t taken any risks at all.”
On his first BRC event in his new DS3, Daniel McKenna was Pryce’s closest challenger throughout, and spoiled Pryce’s perfect ten stage wins with the fastest time on Saturday’s closer. The Pirelli Star Driver finished second quickest on all of the other nine stages to take a comfortable second with co-driver Arthur Kierans.
Callum Black looked set to round out the top three, having posted a top four stage time in each of the first eight stages. His third place finish was cruelly denied though, as he slid off the road in his Millers Oil-backed DS3 on the penultimate stage.
This allowed David Carney to sneak onto an all Citroen DS3 podium, the Irishman staying out of trouble throughout as he got to grips with his DS3. James Ford and Timothy Cathcart were the next R3 runners, finishing sixth and seventh overall in their respective DS3’s.
RallyTwo front-runner Garry Pearson ran fourth overall for a long time on his first outing in his Peugeot 208 R2, however a power steering pump problem that first hit on SS3 eventually forced him into retirement on SS7, costing him the class victory.
This gave Dean Raftery a first BRC2 win in his Ford Fiesta R2. The Irishman overcame a puncture on day one to finish fourth overall, a result that also secured him victory in the FordFiesta SportTrophy and the Ravenol Oils Newcomers’ Trophy.
Fellow Irish competitor Calvin Beattie took second in class and fifth overall, impressing with a trouble free run to his first BRC finish, while Aaron McClure completed a RallyTwo podium lockout for the Fiesta R2 after a tough rally, a broken clutch before the start and a puncture each day hampering his progress.
Gus Greensmith, the second youngest competitor in the BRC’s 58 year history, took the honours in the BRC3 class, nursing his Ford Fiesta R1 home with a broken driveshaft to take top British Junior Rally Championship points. Co-driver turned driver Kim Baker took second in class and the Twingo Renaultsport Trophy UK victory, with Jonathan Jones overcoming a puncture and driveshaft problems to complete the BRC3 podium.
In the NGK Spark Plugs BRC Challenge Trophy, entrants for which are running within the BRC field for the first time this year, Richard Sykes dominated proceedings in his Citroen C2 R2. With Emma Morrison alongside him, Sykes was fastest on five of the six Saturday stages the Challenge runners tackled, winning the class by just over a minute.
2009 Challenge champion Neil Matthews took second in class in his Vauxhall Nova, having posted top three times on every stage. Mark Gamble recovered from a stage one puncture to complete an all Midlands top three, showcasing his potential with the fastest class time on SS5 in his Suzuki Swift.
Championship aspirants Richard Archer and Ross Hunter both lost wheels and retired on stage two, while newcomers Graeme Sherry and Niall Moroney didn’t even last that long, with both succumbing to mechanical issues on the opening stage.