Anything the BRC top-flight can do, the Junior contenders can do too. Three rounds – three different winners; and with a drive in the World Rally Championship in a Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing i20 N Rally2 up for grabs, it’s no wonder the battle for the title is as intense as it’s ever been.
Open to under 26-year-olds in Rally4 and R2 machinery, a large contingent from both sides of the Irish Sea have joined the series in 2021 and it was a Emerald Isle one-two-three which adorned the Grampian Forest Rally podium, round three of the series.
The BRC headed to the northeast Scottish forests of the Grampian Rally for the first time in well over 20 years and the super-fast tests of Drumtochty and Fetteresso would provide yet another closely-fought encounter.
Eamonn Kelly and Conor Mohan have been building their pace and experience all season long. After beginning his career in a Honda Civic on the Irish lanes, he progressed into a Fiesta R2T for 2019, winning his class in the Irish National Championship but had never been on gravel before embarking on his 2021 season in a Fiesta Rally4 – but you couldn’t tell.
Kelly found the tough Scottish stages a great leveller and despite not being able to match the pace of the early leaders over the opening loop, a consistent drive saw them take a fantastic maiden win and subsequently the lead of the championship. Nice work for the rookies.
Those early Grampian leaders were Ruari Bell and Gareth Parry who picked up where they left off at the Nicky Grist – storming into a four-second lead on the opening test. Almost in a different league, Bell opened the gap to a whopping 27 seconds by the time he headed into the last loop of stages.
But he didn’t manage to get his Fiesta Rally4 that far. Electrical issues for the London based ace meant he would be forced to park up before SS5 – his bid for a repeat win evaporated.
David Kelly and Dean O`Sullivan have endured a season to forget so far with zero points on the board heading into Scotland. That doesn’t mean their pace hasn’t been there in 2021, but sadly car issues and a wrong split on the opening round blighted their results although that would change on the Grampian.
A confidence-boosting handful of top-three times saw Kelly scoop his first podium of the season with second spot and a long-awaited championship points score.
Brian Brady and Eamonn Creedon rounded out the podium spots, in their Fiesta Rally4. Another crew to endure a tough season, the pairing vaulted into third place on the final stage at the expense of Kyle White who retired his Peugeot 208 R2 from second place on the road section back to the finish; broken wheel studs the cause.
Eddie Lewis and Dom Adams took their best result of the season so far in fourth place. After showing impressive Junior BRC pace on the Cambrian Rally in 2020, Lewis hasn’t quite been at the races this year but welcomed a positive result in Scotland.
Jason Dickson and Martin Brady made the upgrade from a Fiesta R2 to Rally4 machinery for round three and instantly made an impact on the leader board to round out the top five.
After an early challenge for the lead, Finlay Retson and Rhys Stoneman suffered a catalogue of issues during the day which saw them finish in sixth. ECU issues and a puncture dropped them out of contention, although Retson coped admirably considering he suffered a fractured ankle in a stage two start incident.
In the Academy Trophy, Johnnie Mulholland and Calum Maguire took the spoils in their Fiesta R2T after early leader Fraser Anderson was forced to retire with clutch issues across the finish line of the opening stage of the rally.
Mulholland’s win was his second of the season, taking the opening round spoils at Oulton Park whilst Anderson grabbed the round two victory.
The fourth round of the British Rally Championship sees a return to classic Yorkshire forest tests at Trackrod Rally Yorkshire in Filey at the end of September. Aoife Raftery made her competitive debut in Wales and with co-driver Dylan Doonan, she took a maiden podium on the Grampian.
To view the championship points, click HERE.
To view the Junior BRC Highlights from the Grampian Rally, click HERE