The October Bank Holiday weekend is gearing up to be a grand finale for Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy members and for many, it will be their last championship rally of the year.
Two major championships will come to an end over the final weekend in October, the British Rally Championship, and the Triton Showers Motorsport Ireland National Rally Championship.
The last European round of the World Rally Championship is also scheduled for this weekend and there is Rally Academy interest across all three events.
On Saturday, all eyes will be on the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally, the final round of the British championship.
Academy driver Kyle McBride will be doing his best to wrestle the British Junior title lead from fellow Motorsport Ireland licence holder Kyle White. Peugeot 208 driver White may be in the driving seat having scored four wins so far this year but his Ford Fiesta mounted rival will not be going down without a fight.
McBride is more than capable too, having taken his first Junior win at the Trackrod, but still need to keep their wits about them during the weekend if they are to secure the crown.
“I’m really looking forward to the Cambrian, it will be my first time doing the rally and obviously it’s the last round of the championship,” said McBride who will be co-driven as usual by Liam McIntyre.
“Most importantly the championship goes down to the last round and I can’t wait to get going. It is my first year doing the Junior BRC and it’s really encouraging for me how I have improved all year to bring the championship down to the last round and it would be a dream come true to win the championship of course.
“I have looked up to so many people who have competed and won the British Championship and it would mean so much to me and my team. I never even thought I would even get the opportunity to do the series at the age of 19 and here we are taking the championship down to the last round, so I am really thankful to all the people around me and to my sponsors who have helped me get this far and the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy for their dedication and hard work.”
Carrick-on-Suir’s Jack Brennan and his Wexford co-driver John McGrath return to the British series after making an impressive debut on Rali Bae Ceredigion last month. However, they have since upgraded their Renault Clio Rally5 to a new Peugeot 208 Rally4. They gave the new car its maiden outing on their home event, the Carrick-on-Suir Forestry Rally two weeks ago where they recorded an impressive 12th overall.
Billy Coleman Award nominee Keelan Grogan and his Galway co-driver Ayrton Sherlock were the class winners in Carrick-on-Siur in another 208 Rally4. They will make their overseas rally debut in North Wales on Saturday.
Another Irish crew making their debut in Wales is recent Motorsport Ireland Forestry Rally Championship Junior 1000 graduate Jack Harris.
He and co-driver Aaron O’Regan made the switch to Ford Fiesta R2 power in time for the Davagh Rally in Northern Ireland in August. They have since contested the Bushwhacker Rally in September but like Grogan and Sherlock, this will be their first overseas event too.
Galway’s Aoife Raftery returns to the Welsh Forests, where she made her rally debut in 2021, at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta. Raftery has been plying her trade in the FIA Junior European Rally Championship this season but has been competing closer to home since her continental campaign drew to a close in August. Damian Connolly will co-drive on this occasion.
County Monaghan’ James McCarville is also on the Cambrian Rally entry list in a Ford Fiesta Rally2 – his third gravel outing in the recently acquired car.
WRC Central European Rally
The new tri-state Rally of Central Europe marks the end of Josh McErlean’s WRC Challenger programme for 2023. The Derry-based driver and his Cavan co-driver James Fulton will drive their usual PCRS Rallysport-prepared Hyundai i20 Rally2 in the new event that traverses Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic.
The Motorsport Ireland Academy and Hyundai Motorsport Customer Racing Junior Driver will make his first WRC start since Finland and his first WRC tarmac event since Monte Carlo after spending the summer months contesting the FIA European Rally Championship.
Making their WRC debut at the event are Conor Wilson and Sean Marsh in a Ford Fiesta Rally4.
As ever, co-driver Arron Johnston will compete alongside Takamoto Katsuta in the factory Toyota Yaris Rally1 in what will be their penultimate rally of the year.
Eamonn Boland and Mikey Joe Morrisey contest their third WRC event of the year in a Citroen C3 Rally2 and will compete in the WRC Masters Category.
Motorsport Ireland Academy drivers entered in the Fastnet Rally, the final round of the Triton Showers Motorsport Ireland National Championship include the 2022 National Forestry champion Patrick O’Brien and his co-driving brother Stephen in their Skoda Fabia R5.
It will be their first domestic asphalt rally since the Galway International Rally last February when they finished sixth.
Eammon Kelly will finish his year as the Billy Coleman Young Rally Driver of the Year with his first Irish outing of the season.
Aside from the Limerick Rallysprint, Kelly and his co-driver Conor Mohan have spent most of 2023 on foreign shores. They contested 11 different rallies and 10 different countries, mainly following the Junior World Rally Championship where they placed 4th and 3rd respectively. They are on the Fastnet Rally entry list in the same Volkswagen Polo R5 they drove to seventh on the Malcolm Wilson Rally in March.
Rally Academy co-driver Eoin Treacy will compete alongside his father Allen Treacy in the family’s Toyota Corolla GT.
FIA Rally Star
Meanwhile is Spain over the weekend Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy co-driver Ronan Comerford guided Oman’s Abdullah Al Tawqi to a fourth-place finish in the FIA Rally Star section of RACC Catalunya - Costa Daurada. The Salou-event was the penultimate round of the championship.
“Really happy with what we have achieved over this past week in Spain, assessing what we have learned and collating it altogether has meant we have reached a podium spot within RallyStar,” said the Armagh man.
“The rally itself was super and cool to experience. One round remains now and it’s a pivotal round for us as we want to continue to deliver and learn from our results.”
Text by Sean Moriarty