Round one winner Fredrik Ahlin will be hoping to continue his strong start to the 2017 Prestone MSA British Rally Championship as the series enters round two; the Pirelli International Rally.
Over 100 gravel stage miles are set to test the teams with the rally being based in Carlisle and using Kielder Forest as the backdrop to the longstanding-BRC event this weekend.
Swede Ahlin, who took the victory at the Carlisle-based event last year, will be hoping that he can continue where he left off at the Brick and Steel Border Counties Rally in March and again take the victory in his Skoda Fabia R5 in the second round of the championship.
The Swedish driver along with new-for-2017 co-driver Torstein Eriksen will again have a fight on his hands for overall honours with many of the 16-strong crews competing in R5 machinery in the BRC1 class capable of taking the win this weekend.
One of Ahlin’s stand out challengers must be Tom Cave, runner up last time out in Scotland who this weekend will continue in the championship in a new Hyundai i20 R5 after switching from his Ford Fiesta he usually competes with just for this event. The i20 is set to make its first appearance in the UK in Cumbria.
Third in Scotland, Osian Pryce is another former winner of the event and will be looking to back up his fine start to the season this weekend and could challenge at the very front of the field, while M-Sport’s Keith Cronin, who has been victorious on this event twice in recent years, will be hoping to make it a hat-trick of wins in Cumbria as he continues to get used to his new surroundings in the ecoboost-powered Fiesta R5.
Making a one-off appearance this weekend is experienced Norwegian driver Eyvind Brynildsen who enters the rally in a Pirelli-backed Fiesta R5 and is aiming for the overall victory this weekend.
Former champion David Bogie, who crashed out of the opening event of the season, will be hoping to make amends in Cumbria and take the win. Bogie will be one of the favourites for glory this weekend and is a previous winner of the event back in 2011. The Scotsman was matching Ahlin at the top of the timesheets before his off back in March and will be aiming to show this pace one again this weekend.
Rhys Yates who took fifth at round one again looks set to battle with both Matt Edwards and Jamie Anderson who finished sixth and seventh last time out respectively in a trio of Fiesta R5’s this weekend in Kielder.
Experienced BRC competitor Jonny Greer again returns this weekend in his Citroen DS3 R5 hoping to build upon his eighth placed result at the Jedburgh-based-event while Marty McCormack, who took a stage victory in Scotland will again compete in his Skoda Fabia R5 hoping to build on his promising pace.
The BRC1 class is rounded out by Desi Henry, who is looking to move on from his poor start to the championship and the BRC-returning pair of Tom Preston in a Fabia R5 and James Slaughter in a Fiesta R5 who will both join the championship from this weekend onwards.
In the BRC Junior Class, Oscar Solberg will be aiming to make it two wins from two events this weekend. The son of Henning and nephew of Petter took the victory last time out in commanding fashion ahead of Dean Raftery and William Creighton in a Ford Fiesta R2T and the trio will again battle it out for top honours in the class in Cumbria.
Fourth at the Border Counties Merion Evans looks to build upon a strong result and will face off against drivers including Cameron Davies and Marty Gallagher. Davies will want to put a disastrous opening weekend of the championship behind him going into round two.
The class also features drivers including Callum Devine, James Williams, who enter in a pair of Fiesta R2’s and Josh McErlean who returns this weekend in his Citroen C2 R2 having shown he has the pace to match the leaders of the class if no issues go his way this weekend.
Seven competitors are set to battle it out in the new-for-2017 BRC Cadet class. Round one winner Josh Cornwell will again face competition from drivers including Fergus Barlow; runner up last time out and James McDiarmid in the Harper Adams University prepared Ford Fiesta R2.
Australian Arron Windus makes his 2017 debut this weekend in a new Vauxhall Adam R2 after competing in this event last season while MH Motorsport round out the class and bring three Fiesta R2’s to Cumbria with Nabila Tejpar, Alex Waterman and Tom Williams all set to take on the stages of Kielder Forest this weekend.
David White, who recently took part in the WRC Tour De Corse event will be hoping his experience abroad in his Ford Fiesta R2 will help him finish strongly overall this weekend and is the sole entrant in the BRC4 class, while the National Rally Cup will see Donny McDonald aim to finish well overall in his R5-spec Fiesta. John Morrison in a Mitsubishi Evo IX and Max Utting in a Fiesta ST will be waiting in the wings if McDonald has issues however.
The Production class sees sole entrant Spencer Wilkinson in his Subaru Impreza competing while the traditional-Pirelli Rally Land Rover class features five entrants with Clive Alford, Ben de Ronde, Chris McCarthy, Tyrone Westall and Blair Thomson all set to compete this weekend.
As the 2017 Prestone MSA British Rally Championship heads for Cumbria and Kielder Forest can round one winner Fredrik Ahlin fend off the chasing pack this weekend and take another victory?