Fredrik Ahlin took the victory at the opening round of the 2017 Prestone MSA British Rally Championship, at the Brick and Steel Border Counties Rally ahead of Tom Cave and Osian Pryce.
Swede Ahlin won the event 38.6 seconds ahead of overnight leader Cave after battling with the 2016 runner up for the lead at the start of the second day of action, before taking the overall lead of the event on stage 5 and didn’t look back as he went on to win.
Cave finished a fine second ahead of Pryce who was a further 28.8 seconds behind in third as the defending Drive DMACK champion took the final place on the podium. Cave’s decision to play his ‘joker’ in the opening round also paid dividends as he took home four extra points for his championship attack for the BRC in 2017.
The victorious Ahlin said: “It’s been a very, very good weekend for us. We took it steady to begin with as I had a new car and new co-driver, but I am really happy with how today went and I think we showed that on stages five and six, when we increased the pace, David [Bogie] and Tom [Cave] were struggling a little bit. After taking a big chunk of time in the middle of the day, we just kept that gap and made sure we got to the finish.”
While second placed Cave was pleased with second in the first round of the championship. He admitted: “We started brilliantly on the opening night. The second day was good as well, but we dropped a little bit of time on the first stage. We had to do some road sweeping as we ran first on the road when David [Bogie] went out, which really helped Fredrik. I am disappointed to have lost the time that I did, but we kept on pushing in some really tricky conditions when others made mistakes.”
Each and every one of the rallies nine stages was a wet and slippery affair and this made for great competition with the first five stages of the event being won by five different drivers.
The muddy conditions however made the stages in Southern Scotland treacherous and claimed the retirements of many of the main field, with both third placed at the time David Bogie and stage five winner Marty McCormick hitting the same rock on stage six and causing them both to retire.
With Bogie out this left the final rostrum position up for grabs between the returning Osian Pryce and M-Sport’s new recruit Keith Cronin. The pair had battled together throughout the two days of the event and it would be the Welshman Pryce who would come out on top against the former triple champion Cronin who would take fourth.
Youngster Rhys Yates took a superb fifth overall in his Ford Fiesta R5 with a consistent Matt Edwards in sixth, Jamie Anderson in seventh, Jonny Greer in eighth and Euan Thorburn in Ninth.
In the BRC Junior class, Oscar Solberg finished what he started on Friday evening and took the victory on his first BRC outing with the added bonus of finishing tenth overall in the event and earning a point in the main category in the process.
Solberg won 51.5 seconds ahead of Dean Raftery with youngster William Creighton in third; second and third swapping positions on Saturdays stages after trailing Solberg going into day two.
The son of Henning and nephew of Petter, Oscar Solberg was ecstatic with the win. He said: “It’s really good to have finished our first BRC rally, and if I am honest I am totally surprised we got the win. I got into a good rhythm really quickly which helped us, as the roads were incredibly difficult with so many stones and big rocks, meaning not getting a puncture is very important. I’m feeling really good with the car and looking forward to the rest of the series. We will try to drive as fast as we can and get more points on the next round.”
BRC Cadet saw a dominating victory for Josh Cornwell despite light issues on the opening night stage of the rally where he won in impressive fashion finishing almost three minutes ahead of Fergus Barlow with James McDiarmed taking third in the Harper Adams University-prepared Ford Fiesta National which incidentally had been finished being built the day before the event started.
The BRC4 battle was cut short as the father and son duo of David and Matthew White hit gearbox issues and would use the rest of the event to focus on gaining stage miles for their Ford Fiesta R2 which would give the win to Gee Atherton while the sole entry in BRC2, Spencer Wilkinson would finish a creditable 21st overall in his Subaru Impreza.
Next up for the 2017 Prestone MSA Britsih Rally Championship is the Pirelli International Rally on April 29/30. Can Fredrik Ahlin make it two wins from two events, or will Tom Cave be able to take top honours in the Hyundai i20 R5 that he will switch to for the Carlisle based event?