Less than two weeks after the Motorsport UK British Rally Championship disembarked from the Modern Tyres Ulster Rally, the series hotfoots it to Wales for the first time this season as the JDS Machinery Rali Ceredigion [2-3 September] plays host to the final asphalt round of 2023.
Coupled with lashing rain and storm-force winds, the challenging lanes around Newry tested the BRC contenders to the limit last time out, but they will be unable to rest easy this time around either, as Ceredigion’s bumpy, moorland roads will undoubtedly provide one of the toughest encounters of the season so far.
After making its way into the hearts of the BRC crews in 2022, the Aberystwyth-based closed-road event is likely to be a tougher proposition this time around, with an extended offering of just over 100 miles of competitive action, spread across two, long days.
With eyes on inclusion in the FIA European Rally Championship in the future, the popular event retains its fan favourite Aberystwyth street stage, complete with M-Sport’s impressive Ford Puma Rally1 carrying out demonstration runs with Matthew Wilson behind the wheel during Saturday evening. The test sees crews blast through the town centre in front of packed-out crowds, but that would be assuming they had survived the 54 miles preceding the super special earlier in the day.
One certainty however, is that there will be a new crew standing on top of the BRC podium for the first time this season as current leaders Adrien Fourmaux and Alex Coria have elected to skip the event due to their FIA World Rally Championship commitments.
The French pairing will be in Greece to continue their WRC2 campaign, leaving the door open for the chasing contenders to take valuable maximum scores away from the weekend. After missing Ulster, James Williams and Dai Roberts make a welcome return to the series, albeit swapping their Fiesta Rally2 for their tried and tested Hyundai i20 for the Welsh tar.
Williams enjoyed second place on this event in 2022 and led the BRC contingent after the opening day before being overhauled by eventual champion Osian Pryce, so is certainly after redemption this time around. Ironically, Pryce also returns to the rally with the aim of taking the win after a rollercoaster of a season in the ERC, although he has elected not to register for BRC points on his domestic reappearance.
Fresh from second place across the Irish Sea, Garry Pearson has moved into second in the standings and Fourmaux’s closest challenger so far. A measured drive in his Volkswagen Polo GTi saw him improve his pace across the weekend in Ulster and could well be in a prime position to take a maximum score. He retains the services of Daniel Barritt in the co-driver’s seat and Pearson secured fifth overall on the event in 2022.
The Junior British Rally Championship fight is looking like it’s heading for another photo finish towards the end of the season and leading the current fight is Ulster winners Kyle White and Sean Topping. The Peugeot 208 Rally4 pairing have taken three wins so far this year but haven’t escaped trouble and there are other eager hard chargers waiting in the wings to take advantage.
Kyle McBride will play his Joker in Wales, offering up to five additional points on his score should he and Liam McIntyre take the top spot in their Fiesta Rally4. Just 18 points are separating McBride from White so every point counts at this stage.
Ioan Lloyd and Sion Williams returned to the series in Ulster and opened up an early lead in their Peugeot 208 Rally4 before a power issue forced them back into service early. However, a clean run on what is their home stages could well see them taking a maiden Junior BRC win.
Almost still waiting for the paint to dry, National Rally Title contender Alan Carmichael will start Rali Ceredigion with a brand new steed, as he takes delivery of a new Hyundai i20 N Rally2 from the factory in Germany.
Not only will the Northern Irishman have to contend with the new machinery, but he will also have to cope with the swap to left-hand drive, his previous i20 having been converted to right-hand drive to suit his driving style. Carmichael and co-driver Claire Williams will undoubtedly take a few stages to bed in and find a set-up that suits the bumpy Welsh roads.
Tackling his first National event of the season, William Mains brings his impressive Vauxhall Nova back to the series after an strong debut year in 2022. Mains has been out of action for the first half of the year but returns to his home rally with Tomos Whittle in the co-driver’s seat.
After the ceremonial start and autograph session in Aberystwyth town on Friday night, the action gets underway on Saturday with eight, action-packed stages in store, including a double run over the infamous 17-mile Cwm Ystwyth test.
Sunday houses six tests and 45 competitive miles before the champagne celebrations on the Aberystwyth seafront later that afternoon.