For the second season in a row, the Motorsport UK British Rally Championship could be decided in the Dalby Forest as Trackrod Rally Yorkshire [22 – 23 September] hosts the penultimate round of the 2023 season.
After a run of four events on a sealed surface, Rally Yorkshire marks the switch back to gravel for the final two rounds and the super-fast English tests could well witness the crowning of the British Rally Champion and National Rally Title Champion on Filey seafront on Saturday evening.
Lifting the coveted trophy in that exact spot last year was Welshman Osian Pryce who went head-to-head with a fifth-BRC-title chasing Keith Cronin. But Pryce was unstoppable and along with co-driver Noel O Sullivan, held the trophy aloft after a blistering year behind the wheel.
Now, the oversubscribed event is destined to witness yet another champion being crowned, but only if they survive the 57-mile blast through the trees; and not all of it in daylight either. Crews will be heading out into the night on Friday to tackle a spectacular 12-mile blast in the Dalby complex to kick things off before Saturday’s five stages are in line to seal the season with a round to spare.
Aiming to rubber-stamp the honours and join a list of rallying royalty including Colin McRae, Richard Burns, Ari Vatanen and Elfyn Evans, are FIA World Rally Championship challengers Adrien Fourmaux and Alexandre Coria. The M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally2 crew have been almost unstoppable in the BRC as they dovetail a WRC2 campaign alongside their British hopes.
Having contested four from the five rounds in the BRC so far, the French pairing has won every round in a tour-de-force season which has seen them fend off the likes of James Williams, Stephane Lefebvre and Keith Cronin for the top spot.
Thanks to wins at the Malcolm Wilson Rally, Jim Clark, Ypres and Ulster, a win will clinch the title and whilst on current form that seems simple, the Yorkshire forests have been known to catch out the unwary over the decades.
Whilst it’s a challenge to stop Fourmaux in his tracks, Garry Pearson and Daniel Barritt have the greatest chance of maximising from any mistake Fourmaux makes at the weekend.
The Volkswagen Polo GTi pairing has been super consistent all year, quietly racking up the points to sit second behind the on-form Frenchmen and if they outscore them, it will see them head into the final round at the Cambrian Rally with a chance to claim the title thanks to the double points on offer.
Throwing his hat into the ring for the first time this season is Tom Williams who is set to tackle Rally Yorkshire in a Ford Fiesta Rally2. Williams has made sporadic appearances in the BRC over the last few years thanks to his competitive efforts in America, but a non-championship Plains Rally win in Wales last May shows intent. Ross Whittock will co-drive.
Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson are another crew to return to the series after skipping a handful of events. Behind the wheel of their Skoda Fabia Rally2, Petch is a former winner of the event [in 2013] and with the series returning to gravel, could well see Petch scoop his best BRC result yet, especially as he will bring his bonus points inducing Joker into play at the weekend.
It’s Kyle White who leads the Junior BRC contenders heading into the weekend, but he has elected to skip the Yorkshire round, leaving Kyle McBride as the sole contender. McBride and co-driver Liam McIntyre are also White’s closest challenger for the title and a simple finish behind the wheel of their Fiesta Rally4 will ensure the race goes to the Cambrian.
BRC4 contender Steve Waugh will be looking for a solid finish after a heartbreaking final-stage drama at the Ulster Rally. Waugh and co-driver Mark Broadbent ended their Northern Ireland trip within sight of the finish, crashing on the final test so Trackrod points will be a real confidence boost.
After stepping up to BRC1 for Rali Ceredigion, Alan Carmichael and Claire Williams return to the chase for the National Rally Title honours and in a carbon copy of 2022, the Northern Irishman can secure the title in Yorkshire.
Having a tricky debut in his brand-new Hyundai i20 N Rally2 in Wales, he returns to the older specification Hyundai for the gravel which also sees him return to the right-hand side of the car, a prospect he most certainly welcomes. A simple finish here will see him lift the crown on Saturday night.
Adding a historic flavour to the series, Stuart McLaren re-emerges with his stunning Opel Kadette GT/E after several months away. Tackling his home event, the Jim Clark Rally, McLaren has been out of the driver’s seat since June but comes back for the gravel with Adam Entwhistle on the notes.
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, and potentially crown the champions on Saturday afternoon.