Reigning Junior British Rally champions Eamonn Kelly and Conor Mohan will enter the BRC top-flight at the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally, contesting the final round of the 2022 season behind the wheel of a Volkswagen Polo GTi R5.
Having already wrapped up the title at Rali Ceredigion, Kelly has enjoyed a stellar season in his Ford Fiesta Rally4 with four wins to his name on both gravel and asphalt surfaces.
The twenty-three-year-old Co. Donegal driver hasn’t stepped outside the Junior BRC podium all season long, meaning he could easily stay at home for the final round in North Wales.
But that’s just not his style and instead, the progressive youngster will step into R5 machinery for the very first time on gravel, going head-to-head with the BRC regulars who are already very much proven in Britain’s premier rally series.
“Our aim this year was to sample R5 machinery on occasions” says Kelly.
“To date I have done that on three tarmac events [at home] however, we wanted some gravel experience too. Coming close to the end of the year we felt the Cambrian was the perfect place to do that, having contested in the event last year. You have a great host of drivers there and some great stages, so it’s the perfect rally to gain some experience.”
His prize for winning the championships is a supported drive in a Hyundai i20 N Rally2 on a WRC round in 2023 so having R5 experience could well be a valuable asset heading into next year. The leap from Rally4 to Rally2 [or R5] is not necessarily a quick one and Kelly is eager to get his feet under the table before pushing too hard.
“I truly have no idea what to expect on gravel” he explains.
“Gravel as a whole is still partially new to me, as well as the car, so there is going to be a lot of getting used to no doubt! The car is fantastic to drive and so capable on tarmac. From what I’ve heard it’s the same on gravel. It will just be a matter of finding my feet and getting to the stage where I can drive the car and it doesn’t drive me!! But I’m blessed to have the opportunity to get stuck into it and gain the experience now.”
As to be expected, the BRC1 regulars have a proven pace but Kelly remains realistic about his ambitions for the weekend.
“It’s a big challenge to compete with the BRC1 top guys, but that is why we are there. It is no different to when we arrived in the JBRC. There was a clear experience deficit but we used each event to learn and get quicker, and we did that successfully. I’ll be taking the same approach again, with no pressure and trying to build on what we take away from the experience. The goal is of course to get a strong finish and see a significant improvement in our times throughout the day.
“We want to be fast and gain experience on both surfaces in R5, and due to the level of competition the BRC is a good place to do that. Therefore, it may be the start of something new for us leading into next year.”