The MSA British Rally Championship blasts back to life this weekend and Borders competitors are hoping to make a big impact.
After a year’s sabbatical, the revitalised BRC returns with a new breed of cars, stars and classes for the 2016 season. The championship’s top category will feature four-wheel-drive competition for the first time since 2011, as the exciting new R5 cars do battle with S2000 machinery at the front of the field.
The Mid Wales Stages hosts the opening round of the new championship and its classic stages will be a genuine early-season test for the crews. The first two stages take place on Saturday evening, requiring bravery, commitment and strong lights as drivers thread their way through 26 challenging miles in the depths of darkness.
Further underlining the renaissance of the new championship, ten manufacturers will be represented on the first round with models from Citroen, Ford, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Proton, Renault, Skoda, Subaru, Toyota and Vauxhall all lining up to contest the six gravel stages.
WRC star Elfyn Evans and co-driver Craig Parry will lead the teams away on Saturday evening in their Ford Fiesta R5, ahead of a host of drivers aiming to prove they have what it takes to claim the title. Previous BRC champions David Bogie (Skoda Fabia R5) and Keith Cronin (Citroen DS3 R5) will be keen to repeat their previous title successes, while Euan Thorburn (Peugeot 208 T16 R5) and Marty McCormack (Skoda Fabia S2000) will be looking for a good start to their campaigns.
Duns driver Euan Thorburn, who will have Paul Beaton from Inverness on the notes again, is looking forward to the championship getting underway.
Euan said: “We had a great first rally in the Peugeot 208 in the Cambrian Rally finishing third overall, setting 5/8 fastest times against strong competition! We used the event to get used to the car and learned a lot and built up our confidence.
“We have made a few changes and upgrades for this weekend and we can’t wait to get out there again!”
Hawick co-driver kevin Rae will partner Dumfries driver David Bogie in his newly acquired Skoda Fabia R5.
Bogie was the last driver to be crowned British Champion in a four-wheel drive car, and he will he aiming to repeat that title success this year in the CA1 Sport-run Fabia.
Bogie said: “I think there will be a lot of Fiesta R5s competing in the BRC this year, so not only did we want to compete in something different, I was very impressed with the build quality of the Fabia R5. The car has proven to be very competitive overseas, and I’m confident it will be just has competitive on the British stages too.”
Duns co-driver Richard Simmonds partners Kilmarnock driver Blair Brown in this year’s championship. They will compete in a Ford Fiesta R2T and face some stiff opposition from across Europe in their class.
The championship will feature throughout the year on Channel 4 and BT Sport.