The Motorsport UK British Rally Championship makes a return to the iconic Dalby Forest next weekend, as the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire [23-24 September] hosts the penultimate, and potentially title-deciding round of the 2022 season.
The blistering fast English forest stages are well-known across the decades for witnessing epic battles when the World Rally Championship visited the region and now the British Rally Championship will head to Filey on the Northeast coast for its annual foray into the nearby woods.
The longest gravel encounter of the season sees over 56 hard-fought miles on offer for the British Championship protagonists and as if the rapid tests are not challenging enough, Friday night offers up a spectacular 11-mile blast under the cover of darkness in the popular Dalby complex to test the crews further still.
And the battle for supremacy on the six-test event will be more intense than usual as series leader Osian Pryce will battle for the ultimate goal, the prestigious British Rally Championship title.
From the seven rounds in store this season, the Welshman has won three of them and that has put him and co-driver Noel O’Sullivan in the pound seat this weekend. If the Melvyn Evans Motorsport-run Volkswagen Polo GTi crew take maximum points, they can secure the title Pryce has spent so long yearning for with a round to spare.
But only a win will do for the Michelin-backed ace and any other result means the fight will go down to the final round in Wales in October. Pryce has netted two asphalt and one gravel victory in 2022 but will need to be on form if he is to lift the coveted trophy in Yorkshire, even with him nominating his Joker for this round.
Behind him, a host of eager challengers are waiting to usurp Pryce’s efforts. Nearest title protagonist Keith Cronin came into the BRC this season in a bid for a record-equalling fifth title in his Pirelli-shod Polo GTi but will need to ensure Pryce doesn’t take the win next weekend if he is to keep that dream alive.
He and Mikie Galvin suffered a sizeable roll last time out at Rali Ceredigion and the squad has faced a race against time to repair the Volkswagen. It’s a tough ask to be back on the front-running BRC pace after such an incident, but if anyone can, it will be Cronin.
But it’s not just the Irishman that can put the brakes on Pryce’s goal. As the season progresses, there are several BRC1 newcomers that have upped their pace and challenged the leaders, coming within a whisker of victory in many cases.
Ruari Bell and Max Freeman have shown blistering speed this season but have yet to really hook up their Skoda Fabia. A maiden BRC1 podium on the Grampian is a sign of their gravel intent and the rapid Yorkshire tests could suit them perfectly.
Day one leader at Rali Ceredigion James Williams enjoyed giving the Hyundai i20 N Rally2 an impressive UK debut, eventually taking second spot on his home event. He and Dai Roberts are more than capable of hounding Pryce and could well secure their first BRC win.
Garry Pearson is the sole Fiesta Rally2 contender in his Hankook-backed machine. With Dale Furniss on the notes, Pearson is overdue another podium, his last being on home turf at the Jim Clark Rally.
National Rally Champion
Another contest that can be decided at the weekend is the National Rally Champion race and the hot favourite is the 2019 series runners-up Alan Carmichael and Arthur Kierans. The Hyundai i20 pairing simply has to finish in Yorkshire to seal the deal, but as we all know, that is easier said than done. Craig Jones and Ian Taylor continue to learn the gravel in their Fiesta 4×4 and are eager to grab their second win of the season.
Junior British Rally Championship
Eamonn Kelly did all he needed to do to secure the hotly contested Junior BRC title last time out and bags a supported drive in a Hyundai i20 N Rally2 on a WRC round in 2023 for his efforts. But co-driver Conor Mohan missed out by virtue of the Joker points score and so Kelly heads to Yorkshire to ensure Mohan can also claim the spoils.
Ioan Lloyd and Sion Williams are enjoying their debut season in the Junior BRC and once they shook off some bad luck, are racking up the points in their Peugeot 208 Rally4. Lloyd is aiming for the runner-up spot in the series and playing the Joker card in Yorkshire is the perfect tactical move.
Rali Ceredigion was a tough event for 2021 Academy Trophy winner Johnnie Mulholland and co-driver Eoin Treacy after technical issues in their Fiesta Rally4 blighted a good result and maximum use of the Joker nomination. They head to the Trackrod locked in the battle with Lloyd for second place.
After a ceremonial start on Filey seafront at 19:00, crews head out to Dalby for the tricky darkness blast on Friday night. Saturday hosts the bulk of the miles, with tests in Cropton, Gale Rigg and Langdale before returning to Filey to spray the champagne on Saturday afternoon.