The 2018 Prestone MSA British Rally Championship finally gets underway this weekend with the Pirelli International based in Carlisle.
After the cancellation of the Border Counties Rally back in March due to severe weather, the season begins with the long-standing Pirelli International which features stages in the world-famous Kielder Forest.
The crews will tackle a total of 80 stage miles on the now one-day event and features a range of returning names and new faces to Britain’s most famous rallying series.
BRC1: Cronin Goes For Title No.5
Headlining the entry and with a last-minute deal is defending champion Keith Cronin who this season will drive a Hyundai i20 R5 with backing from Michelin with the programme for the Irishman literally only coming together last week.
Despite runner up in 2017 Fredrik Åhlin moving to the European Rally Championship this season, Cronin will by no means have everything his own way in pursuit of a record fifth title.
Proving this point is Matt Edwards, the third driver in the title scrap from last season who for 2018 steps up to a full M-Sport supported deal after narrowly losing out on the title on the Isle of Man back in October.
Alongside Edwards in the M-Sport garage for 2018 will be Alex Laffey who enters the championship once again in the U-Student backed Fiesta R5.
2011 champion David Bogie also re-enters for 2018 with the title the aim for the man from Dumfries and will again drive a CA1-Sport Skoda Fabia R5, this season alongside Rhys Yates who switches manufactures after competing in a Ford Fiesta since the relaunch of the BRC in 2016, with Tom Preston in a third Fabia for the Cumbrian team.
Martin McCormack is yet another driver with BRC experience and is a potential champion in BRC1 with the Irishman having won several events since the events of last season in the bid to keep up momentum in his pursuit of a first BRC title.
The BRC1 class is completed in Cumbria by Jonny Greer who makes the switch to a Fiesta after competing in several events last year in a Citroen DS3 and season debutants Sacha Kakad and Lawrence Whyte.
Junior BRC: Creighton To Go One Better in 2018?
The 2018 Prestone Junior BRC class will this weekend have a familiar feel to it as the two title challengers from 2017, Callum Devine and William Creighton, will go head-to-head in Kielder.
Devine, the defending champion, enters the Pirelli as a wildcard with the aim of gaining more experience as part of his Junior World Rally Championship programme in a M-Sport prepared Ford Fiesta R2-T.
As in BRC1, several drivers from 2017 return for full-season campaigns, with Oscar Solberg, Marty Gallagher, James McDiarmid and William Hill some of the names confirmed for this weekend.
Josh Cornwell will be a man to watch as he makes his full-time step up to the class after claiming the Cadet BRC win last season and several new faces such as Kevin Horgan and Steve Røkland will be aiming to start the season with a strong result.
The Cadet BRC class sees an eight-car entry for drivers such as Finlay Retson and Fred Field, while BMX champion Gee Atherton returns as the sole BRC4 entry in a Ford Fiesta R2T after missing several rounds last season.
The 2018 Pirelli International Rally takes place this weekend on April 28.