Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy members will be in the thick of a British Junior Rally Championship fight on next weekend’s Ulster International Rally.
The Newry, County Down-based rally is the fourth round of the British Rally Championship. After next weekend’s event three rounds remain and while there is nothing for sure in rallying one thing that is guaranteed is that the British Junior Rally Championship title will be coming to Ireland this season.
Three Motorsport Ireland-licensed drivers are in a position to follow in the footsteps of outgoing champion, Donegal’s Eamonn Kelly and previous winners William Creighton and Josh McErlean.
The fact that all three previous British Junior Rally Champions have gone on to forge international careers under the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy umbrella shows how important next weekend’s rally and the remaining rounds of the British Rally Championship are in terms of young drivers and co-driver’s future careers.
Lisburn’s Kyle White and Sean Topping lead the championship fray in their Peugeot 208 Rally4 and compete on familiar stages. On home soil, they will be hard to beat but simply cannot afford to relax.
Academy member Kyle McBride and Liam McIntyre are just 11 points behind in the standings, as they enjoy a hat trick of second places already this season; a win in Ulster would draw them ever closer to the top. The Fiesta Rally4 crew have endured a tough season, so a clean run could net big points next weekend.
Casey Jay Coleman enjoyed his first Junior BRC victory in Ypres and cannot be ruled out of another win on an event closer to home.
The Irishman and Academy co-driver Lorcan Moore have been building the mileage outside of the BRC in 2023 and sit third in the BRC Junior title race as a result.
They finished second in the RC4 class in the recent Cork ‘20’ International Rally and are third in that category in the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship.
With different rules and fuel suppliers attached to each championship, Coleman and Moore face a dilemma ahead of Friday evening’s start in Newry.
Before Friday, they must decide if they are to compete under Irish or British rules.
“It is hard to know what way to call it,” said the Tipperary driver. “With bonus points available we have a chance of winning the Irish championship and I don't want to throw that away. There are two more rounds of the British left, but right now it is hard to call.”
After the Newry start, the action gets underway on Friday afternoon with a repeat loop of two stages before an overnight halt. Saturday provides the bulk of the mileage, with three stages repeated, before the ceremonial finish back in Newry in the late afternoon.
Text & Photos by Sean Moriarty