With Dulux Trade in place as the British Rally Championship’s new title sponsor for an initial two year term, the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship approaches the first round this weekend, Bulldog International Rally North Wales, ready for an epic battle on the stages.
It is certain that the 2010 Dulux Trade BRC will be a highly competitive, close fought and exciting spectacle. Why? Because a young Irishman called Keith Cronin made last season one for the history books, taking victory at his first attempt.
The 23 year old from West Cork pitted his skills against not only triple champion Mark Higgins and reigning champion Guy Wilks, but a wealth of talented drivers both young and not so young. The overriding feel of the championship though, is that of youth, with the average age of drivers in 2009 and 2010 only 26 years.
Three official two-car teams and a near 50/50 split of two wheel and four wheel drive cars will make a great spectacle in the Welsh forests, as not only the overall title, but four one-make championships are played out in the British Isles’ premier rally championship.
The International status of the championship is buoyed by competitors from all over the World too, aside from representatives from all corners of the British Isles there are drivers from Ireland, Finland, Australia and South Africa.
Control Sunoco fuels and Pirelli tyres remain to help keep a level playing field, Pirelli committing to the Star Driver Scheme for a fourth year, offering a prize drive in the 2011 Dulux Trade BRC to the talented winner.
Sky Sports has signed a deal to cover the British Rally Championship for a further three years too, the Greenlight TV produced programmes broadcast on the Monday night immediately after each rally. This one hour programme will cover all the top action from the front of the field, carrying the stories from each round of the series. The remainder of the action will be covered in Rallyzone and Motorsport Mundial which go out before the following event.
DULUX TRADE MSA BRITISH TEAMS’ RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Pirelli TEG Spot will not only return to defend their 2009 Teams title, but as winners of the contract to run the 2009 Pirelli Star Driver car, they boast the reigning British Rally Champion as their number one driver. Irishman Keith Cronin, this year co-driven by Barry McNulty, will pilot one of the Lancashire team’s Subaru Impreza N15 cars. Another young driver joining the team for the first time will be Scottish youngster Euan Thorburn and his new co-driver Paul Beaton.
2010 sees the return of JRM which will field two Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10s. The first will be driven by the only other BRC champion in the field, Gwyndaf Evans who has not won the series since 1996, but stands a real chance again this year at the tender age of 51. Chris Patterson will co-drive, no doubt passing on some of his experience to Daniel Sigurðarson’s sister Ásta Sigurðardottir who will co-drive the former Icelandic Rally Champion.
Ramsport joins the fray for the first time as a contender in the Teams’ Championship this year fielding two Imprezas. 2009’s fourth placed driver Dave Weston Junior with co-driver Ieuan Thomas will be joined by the 2007 Pirelli Star Driver Darren Gass, who returns to the championship with Neil Shanks alongside after a year’s break.
DULUX TRADE MSA BRITISH JUNIOR RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
Only drivers born after 1st January 1984 and driving two wheel drive cars are in with a chance of the prestigious MSA Gold flag, presented at the Royal Automobile Club in London. Last year’s champion Marty McCormack is off overseas this year trying his hand at the French Rally Championship, leaving the door wide open for a ruck of drivers to steal the Junior title.
PIRELLI STAR DRIVER COMPETITION
The concept of the Pirelli sponsored initiative is to assist talented drivers to progress and prove their potential, with a view to moving up in the sport. In 2007 the prize of a fully funded drive in the BRC was realised by 19 year old Darren Gass, following a rigorous selection process. 2008’s competition produced 21 year old Adam Gould who drove the door handles off his Clio to take his nomination on the Jim Clark Rally. The young Bristolian was impressive in the TEG Sport-run Pirelli car, narrowly missing out on a podium spot twice, but suffering a couple of high speed offs on his way.
The scheme, which continues in 2010, still allows any registered BRC driver, irrespective of class or nationality, to be eligible for the scheme. It will again choose one person from each of the six events to go forward to the end of season Pirelli Star Driver Shootout. A team of adjudicators will evaluate and nominate each candidate who will be presented with the Pirelli “Yellow Jersey” at the finish of the event.
In addition to this, the highest placed junior drivers in the three one make series’; the Fiesta Sport and Citroën Racing Trophies, the Swift Sport Cup and the overall winner of the Mitsubishi Ralliart Evolution Challenge will also take part in a final selection competition. The winner will secure a fully funded drive in the 2010 BRC in a car appropriate to their experience.
DULUX TRADE MSA BRITISH RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP CLASSES
The Rally 1, 2, 3 and 4 class structure continues for a fourth successive year. Rally 1 will contain the Swift Sport Cup and other production cars up to 1600cc while Rally 2 encompasses R2 cars in the Citroen and Fiesta series. Rally 3 includes turbo diesels and the Fiesta ST model as well as other production category two litre cars.
The Rally 4 class is where the four wheel drive machinery resides; Subaru and Mitsubishi being the mainstay. But there is still the option for Super 2000 screamers to compete for R4 and overall honours within the BRC, M-Sport’s Fiesta S2000 likely to feature this year at the hands of Craig Breen.
DULUX TRADE MSA BRITISH RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP DIESEL & PRIVATEER CUPS
Once again there will be opportunities for diesel cars to compete in the BRC, the competition in the Diesel Rally Cup likely to be between 2009 Champions Steve and Tony Graham in their Vauxhall and Irishman Fin McCaul’s BMW, although McCaul will miss the first round through business commitments.
The Privateers Cup rewards the highest placed driver not entered in a team, Keith Cronin taking the accolade in 2009. As he is a member of the Pirelli TEG Sport team in 2010, a new name will adorn the trophy at the end of season awards ceremony in October.
BULLDOG INTERNATIONAL RALLY OF NORTH WALES
After a baptism of fire as the BRC’s new opening round in 2009, Bulldog International Rally North Wales came up trumps, offering an excellent single day format in some of the country’s most iconic stages. The 2010 format means a new base for the International and Challenge events at the brand new multi million pound Welshpool Livestock Market.
The 100 stage mile event is packed into one day, starting at 7am on Saturday 27th March and finishing back at the Livestock Market podium at 6.30pm. Using some of the classic Welsh forestry stages like Sweet Lamb, Hafren, Dyfi and Gartheiniog, it will be a real test of crews' abilities.
For Bulldog International Rally North Wales programme and ticket information visit www.bulldog-rally.co.uk.
For more information on the Dulux Trade MSA British Rally Championship visit www.rallybrc.co.uk.