In the MSA British Rally Championship’s distinguished 56 year history, it’s hard to recall a year that’s been as tough, dramatic and unfortunately as sad as 2014, a year in which the championship made the national news headlines for all the wrong reasons.
That coverage came on a dark day at the Jim Clark Rally in May, the second event of an already turbulent season for the UK’s premier rally series, when two incidents on the same day claimed the lives of three spectators and injured six others.
The most serious incident saw a front-running DS3 leave the road and fatally strike a group of spectators. Naturally the event, the only closed-road rally in the mainland UK, was cancelled with immediate effect, with the incidents later leading to a review of motorsport safety in Scotland.
With the championship reeling from those events, there was further tragedy three months later on the Ulster Rally when rising young talent Timothy Cathcart passed away following an incident on the Northern Irish event, leaving the sport in mourning.
It proved to be a difficult year throughout for the championship, with a lack of entries plaguing the series. It was particularly a problem in the headline R3 class where only two drivers competed in all five events, leading to the British motorsport’s governing body the MSA to make some radical decisions on the BRC’s future.
They elected to run the BRC in-house from 2016 after being unhappy with the tender process to find a new promoter, ending UK Rally’s nine year run in charge of the championship, and with it made the decision for the series to take a one-year sabbatical in 2015 to allow consultation on its future.
That decision, made in June, led to the cancellation of the season-ending Rallye Dorset (re-branded from Rallye Sunseeker), with the event organisers citing financial implications caused by an uncertain future for the championship and therefore their event.
That was the second event of the year not to run after the original season opener, Rally North Wales, was forced to be postponed for the second year running, this time due to a lack of entries across the event.
While there were sadly plenty of unfortunate stories surrounding the championship this year, there was still the small matter of adding a new name to the prestigious roll call of BRC champions that includes Colin McRae, Richard Burns, Malcolm Wilson and Ari Vatanen.
Daniel McKenna and Osian Pryce headed into the season hotly tipped for success after taking the RallyTwo class title and overall vice-champion’s honours in 2013 respectively, and they certainly rose to their billing as they played out a fierce championship duel.
Pryce got off a perfect start with victory on the Pirelli Carlisle RB Foundation Rally, his fourth consecutive BRC win after his superb end to the previous campaign, before McKenna hit back on the Jim Clark with his maiden BRC success.
McKenna followed that up with a victory on the RSAC Scottish Rally that proved decisive after Pryce retired with gearbox problems. A third consecutive win on the Ulster, with Pryce in close pursuit, meant the Irishman’s advantage sat at 22 points heading into the double header Isle of Man finale.
It looked like the Pirelli Star Driver might have thrown away his chances of success with a dramatic roll towards the end of the opening points-scoring round, but a great turnaround by the DGM Sport team saw him back out for the final action.
That meant that when Pryce, who took maximum points in the penultimate event, suffered a bent suspension on the final day McKenna and co-driver Arthur Kierans secured the title by eleven points, with Pryce and Dale Furniss left to settle for second.
The sparse entry for the headline R3 class meant that despite missing half the year, Callum Black was the next best R3 competitor. Another to compete in a DS3, Black secured third on the Jim Clark and a career-best BRC finish of second in Scotland before departing from the action.
Finishing an impressive third overall in the championship as the R2 class champion was Calvin Beattie, after he enjoyed a close battle with fellow Irishman Dean Raftery throughout the campaign in their respective Ford Fiesta R2’s.
The class title was initially awarded to Raftery, though with points awarded erroneously to him an amended classification gave Beattie the crown. It was a retirement in the penultimate round that ultimately cost Raftery, who had taken four class wins to Beattie’s two.
Splitting them in the final standings was Gus Greensmith. Campaigning a Ford Fiesta R1, Greensmith overcame early competition from Chris Wheeler and Harry Threlfall to secure the British Junior Rally Championship with five class wins in the six rounds.
At the front, Citroen’s monopoly of the R3 class led to a comprehensive, almost unopposed victory in the BRC Constructors Championship over Ford (M-Sport). There was some input from other marques, with appearances for Renault, Peugeot and Abarth.
Garry Pearson competed in a new Peugeot 208 R2 in the first half of the year, Renault trialled their new Clio R3 model in Scotland with 2013 BRC champion Jukka Korhonen and Abarth made an appearance on the Jim Clark with 500’s for former BRC champion Jonny Milner and Georgia Shiels.
For McKenna, Pryce, Raftery and Greensmith meanwhile, their successes earnt them a free entry onto the World Rally Championship season finale Wales Rally GB as part of the championship’s ‘Road to Wales’ campaign.
McKenna saw mechanical problems hamper his event and lead to a retirement, Pryce starred in a Ford Fiesta R5 taking 18th overall, and Raftery and Greensmith finished secured second and third respectively in class RC4 in Fiesta R2’s.
A full list of the 2014 MSA British Rally Championship class victors is below. Click here for the final points.
British Rally Champion (BRC Class 1) – Daniel McKenna
Co-Drivers Champion – Arthur Kierans
RallyTwo Champion (BRC Class 2) – Calvin Beattie
RallyTwo Co-Drivers Champion – Aileen Kelly
Junior Rally Champion (BRC Class 3) – Gus Greensmith
BRC Class 3 Co-Drivers Champion – Melanie Holmes
NGK Spark Plugs BRC Challenge Champion (BRC Class 4) – Ross Hunter
BRC Challenge Co-Drivers Champion – Emma Morrison
Ravenol Oils Newcomers’ Trophy Champion – Calvin Beattie
Citroen Racing Trophy Champion – Daniel McKenna
Ford Fiesta SportTrophy Champion – Calvin Beattie
BRC Gravel Cup Champion – Osian Pryce
BRC Asphalt Cup Champion – Daniel McKenna
BRC Stars Of The Future Champion – Niall Moroney
Constructors Champions – Citroen UK