BRC | PREVIEW06/04/2022
As the series begins its 64th year of competition, The British Rally Championship returns to the stages with The Corbeau Seats Rally Tendring & Clacton in the South East of England (23-24 April). In 2018 the Essex based event took the honours as becoming the first-ever closed road stage rally in England and now it will open up the 2022 BRC season on the Asphalt. But it will be without the reigning three times British Rally Champ Matt Edwards to defend the title.
Instead, stepping into the Melvyn Evans Motorsport team and into the VW Polo GTi R5 car will be three times National Asphalt Champion, Jason Pritchard. It won’t actually be the exact same car that Edwards contested and won last season in; but we know that the package as a whole, in the team, the car and the driver are altogether totally capable of challenging for the prestigious BRC title this year.
Jason Pritchard / NW Stages 2022 | Photo By Gary Fothergill / GF Rally Images
Pritchard got his first taste of the VW Polo at the recent North West Stages rally, however, a small compression unsettled the car on only the fourth stage in the rally resulting in decent off. The accident caused some damage to the front end and Pritchard was Gutted, as confidence in the car was improving with every mile, he said.
Even with Pritchard’s previous titles in both the National Asphalt and British Historic Rally Championships under his belt, he will face some stiff competition. Namely that of the 2021 BRC runner up Osian Pryce, who returns once again to have another crack at the title, in the very same VW Polo GTI R5 that he contested last year in with The Melvyn Evans squad.
Osian Pryce / Cambrian Rally 2021 | Photo By Andy Cook / Xlerate.Media
Pryce had a great season battling it out with Edwards and after two victories on the Mull and Cambrian, he was leading Edwards heading into the final round at The Ulster Rally. Unfortunately an off whilst chasing down Edwards put an end to his title hopes but the young Welshman has shown that he has what it takes to win at this level. After last season’s close-fought title, Pryce should be very much “The Man To Beat”.
Joining as the third car at the opening round from the Melvyn Evans stable will be son Meirion. Having contested a number of tarmac rallys in 2021, Meirion has not competed in the series since a couple of events back in 2019.
Meirion Evans | Three Shires Stages 2021 | Photo By Andy Cook / Xlerate.Media
Whilst the current BRC team’s champions (Melvyn Evans Motorsport) have the bums in the seats to challenge for the title once again, their drivers will however have to keep one eye on another big winner from last year. And that is Scotsman Gary Pearson alongside his Co-Driver Niall Burns who had a truly epic season last year. They not only won the National BRC class but also contested and won the Scottish Rally Championship, Welsh National Championship and BTRDA Rally Series.
Gary Pearson / Rally Nuts Stage 21 | Photo By Andy Cook / Xlerate.Media
For 2022 they step into Matt Wilson’s Ex M-Sport 2021 Ford Fiesta Rally2 car and will focus their efforts on the main BRC1 title challenge. This car was a fresh build last year and not only contested the BRC at the hands of Wilson gaining an outright win on the Grampian Rally but also competed in a number of WRC2 events, namely the Safari, Acropolis and Monza.
Returning for a second season in the BRC is Elliot Payne, Payne has been showing some great pace in his Rally2 Fiesta whilst contesting both BRC National Cup and BTRDA events last year. Gaining two outright wins in the BTRDA Gold Star and a National Cup win on the Nicky Grist Stages last year, the young man has the pace to mix it up at the sharp end; but can he convert that speed into consistent rally wins against a strong field?
Elliot Payne / Malcolm Wilson Rally 2022 | Photo By Andy Cook / Xlerate.Media
Irishman Keith Cronin will line up at the opening round behind the wheel of a VW Polo GTi R5. Cronin drove the Polo for the first time on the Birr Stages Rally, which unfortunately ended prematurely in retirement after a broken driveshaft. But the four times BRC Champ (2009, 2010, 2012 & 2017) was pleased with the pace up until then and is hoping that 2022 will be the year he secures his 5th British title.
James Williams will be peddling a Hyundai i20 R5 car in Clacton; his first outing in the car at the 2021 Ulster rally ended prematurely with engine issues but he recently finished 3rd in it on the new closed road rally, The East Riding stages alongside Co-Driver Dai Roberts but his last outing in gravel at Rally North Wales ended in only the second stage.
James Williams / East Riding Stages 22 | Photo By Gary Fothergill / GF Rally Images
Stepping up in classes from the Junior BRC will be Ruairi Bell, Bell contested the JBRC last season in a Rally4 Fiesta winning at the opening round The Nicky Grist Stages, he has also contested the JWRC back in 2020. This season he alongside Co-Driver Max Freeman will contest the BRC in a 2019 spec Rally2 Skoda Fabia.
Thomas Preston will once again drive a Fiesta, a Rally2 spec compared to the R5 car that he competed in on selected BRC National Cup rounds last year. Preston already has a number of events such as the Riponian, East Riding and North West Stages already under his belt in the car.
Andy Davis will leave behind his trusty Subaru Impreza to campaign an R5 Fiesta. Davis who tends to favour tarmac events has had some class successes, particularly in the Irish tarmac series but this along with his experience from competing in the Welsh National Championship should blend together nicely for the BRC assault this year, despite not having much seat time last year.
JUNIORS & ACADEMY
In the Junior British Rally Championship, the series says goodbye to its outgoing champ, Will Crieghton who is contesting the Junior World Rally Championship this year. But for those who do compete in the series, along with the JBRC title & Academy Trophy, the added bonus prize of competing in a round of the 2023 FIA World Rally Championship and a test in the latest-generation Rally2 Spec Hyundai i20N car will await the victors.
Eamonn Kelly / Cambrian Rally 2021 | Photo By Andy Cook / Xlerate.Media
The Irish contingent will so far consist of last year’s JBRC runner up Eamonn Kelly, after pushing fellow countryman and winner Will Creighton all the way, Kelly is hoping to bring home the glory this time around and has been preparing by competing on a number or Irish Tarmac events recently.
Kelly will be joined in the battle by last season’s Academy winner Johnnie Mulholland who will contest the JBRC in a Rally4 Fiesta. Also, Kyle McBride in an R2 Fiesta is making a switch from the Irish Forest Championship to take on the Academy Trophy.
Fielding a Peugeot 208 Rally4 car will be Kyle White from Belfast; after finishing 5th overall last year in his debut season, the 25-year-old will be making his second attempt at the Juniors.
Kyle White / Nicky Grist Stages 2021 | Photo By Andy Cook / Xlerate.Media
Fraser Anderson has traded in the R2 Fiesta for the Rally4 version and will finally get his teeth into the JBRC this year after competing in the Academy Trophy last season.
Fraser Anderson / TrackRod Rally 2021 | Photo By Andy Cook / Xlerate.Media
With two tarmac events under his belt already (The Galway and North West Stages), gaining valuable seat time in the new car from M-Sport Poland; the young 19-year old Scotsman will have a decent field of competitors to compete against.
That will include, Ioan Llyod who makes the move from competing in the BTRDA and Welsh National Juniors series to the JBRC; trading in the R2 Spec Peugeot 208 for the Rally4 version. After securing the BTRDA Juniors R2 Cup title last year, the step up into the JBRC should provide a good battleground.
Ioan Lloyd / Rally Nuts Stages 2021 | Photo By Andy Cook / Xlerate.Media
Meanwhile from overseas, Norweigen Ola Nore Jr will contest the JBRC in a Rally4 Fiesta. After competing on a select number of events in ERC3 class in 2021 under the TokSport outfit, along with his home National Series, the lure of the JBRC has attracted him to the UK. Under the watchful eye of Co-Driver Jack Morton, it will be interesting to see what he can do up against Britain’s young hopefuls on unfamiliar events.
The country lanes of Essex will await the crews of the British Rally Championship at the opening round of the season from its Rally HQ at the seaside town of Clacton-on-the-sea (23-24 April). The action will get underway on Saturday evening with two runs over a short 0.7mile seafront stage in front of the fans before restarting on Sunday morning with 3 loops of 4 special stages with a total of just over 52 competitive stage miles.