Alan Carmichael had been the Motorsport UK National Rally Title bridesmaid three times in recent years, and in 2022, the Northern Irishman was not about to make that four. Much to his delight, he and co-driver Arthur Kierans final were able to clinch the crown after an impressive season in their Hyundai i20 R5.
Whilst the top-flight contenders aiming for the British Rally Championship title utilise Rally2 examples, the National Rally Title gives competitors in other machinery with a Motorsport UK Technical Passport looking for an additional challenge of longer events and recce, the chance to compete shoulder-to-shoulder with their BRC1 counterparts.
And whilst the scoreboard looked like an easy victory for Carmichael, it wasn’t all plain sailing. He skipped the opening round in Clacton but returned with a bang on the Jim Clark Rally, taking a scintillating start-to-finish victory on his first BRC outing of the season as opening round winners Craig Jones and Ian Taylor suffered boost issues in their Fiesta 4×4.
Carmichael secured a back-to-back win which came on the gravel of the Nicky Grist Stages in Wales, before adding the Grampian Forest Rally to his list of wins. But it was the asphalt of Rali Ceredigion where he shone, lying third overall after the opening two street stages around Aberystwyth on Saturday night. A consistent drive over the second day ensured another win and would just need a solid drive in Yorkshire to seal the title with a round to spare.
All his hard work almost came undone however in a dramatic finish to his and Kierans event. Cooling issues in the Hyundai i20 forced them to stop on the final test of the rally. Nursing the car back to the Filey finish, they finally took the title Carmichael had been longing for.
Whilst it was an impressive feat, Jones and Taylor performed equally as well considering Jones’ relative lack of gravel experience and events in the calendar.
Their round one victory was a battle until the final stage of the event, overhauling Mick O’Brien and Mark Glennerster’s Ford Focus WRC in the last few miles of the rally to take a top score and putting their Joker bonus to good use.
Retirement at the Jim Clark Rally wasn’t the ideal follow-up, but the Fiesta’s gravel debut on the Nicky Grist saw them take second spot before a second win of the season came in Yorkshire, proving their gravel prowess. The Runner-up spot was their reward.
William Mains would make his debut in the series with the aim of “doing some giant killing” in his mighty Vauxhall Nova and would impress the crowds with his attacking driving style. His season started well, with third in Clacton, but a sizeable accident on the Jim Clark forced him to change to a Corsa for the Nicky Grist. Moreso, this would be his very first gravel rally in almost 80 event starts. Whilst it took time to adapt, it was another third spot for the Welshman. Sadly, the Grampian offered a zero score, which was redeemed in Yorkshire with third, before rounding out the year with an unfortunate engine failure. He did enough to take third in the series however.
The National Rally Title continues in 2023 and runs alongside the British Rally Championship, details of which will be announced shortly.