Several crews representing the Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy have placed entries for this weekend’s Rali Bae Ceredigion in Wales.
Three different Irish drivers are in with a shot of claiming the Junior British Rally Championship title and the Aberystwyth-based rally is the fifth of seven rounds.
Ulster Rally category winners and Motorsport Ireland licence holders Kyle White and Sean Topping have an 18-point advantage over Rally Academy member Kyle McBride and his co-driver Liam McIntyre.
Casey Jay Coleman and his co-driver, Rally Academy member Lorcan Moore are holding third place. They are 17 points adrift of McBride. With 25 points on offer for a win and 18 points for the runner-up spot, the championship remains wide open.
For Donegal’s McBride, a win is crucial, he has finished second on all four rounds so far, three times to White and once to Coleman.
While there has been no doubting his pace, his season has been blighted with bad luck.
He feels the time is right to push for his first category win this season.
“We have four seconds, but we have finished every round so far,” he said. “This was our year to learn, A lot of these boys around us have been doing the BRC for a while and this is our first time. We do not have half the knowledge of the other lads. But we are going to Wales to push for the BRC [junior] win.”
Galway’s Aoife Raftery, another Rally Academy member, has also placed an entry for the event. The Craughwell woman is contesting this year’s FIA Junior European Rally Championship in a PCRS Rallysport run Peugeot 208 Rally 4.
She has entered the Welsh event in Ford Fiesta Rally 2 1600.
While her plans for 2024 have yet to be confirmed, Rali Bae Ceredigion is being mooted as a potential FIA ERC round next year.
She is competing this weekend to gain experience of the event and prepare for next season should she decide to return to the series and the rally gains European status.
“This weekend we are heading for a one-off event over in Wales, we are going over to get some experience and see the style of stages there, first time rallying on tarmac in Wales so it looks like it is going to be a great few days’ of rallying,” she said.
Rising Waterford star, 19-year-old Jack Brennan will contest just his second rally outside of Ireland and his first overseas tarmac event.
Driving the same Renault Clio Rally 5 that he drove nine class wins on Irish National and Forestry events this year, he and co-driver John McGrath are the top seeds in the Rally 5 class.
“We are using this event as a learning curve and to see where we measure up against the BRC Rally 4 Junior crews,” said Brennan. “We want to try and show our pace and show what we can do over there and want to have the best result we possibly can.”
Waterford driver Andrew Purcell and his Kerry co-driver Shane Buckley are the top all-Irish crew in the event. They will debut a newly acquired Volkswagen Polo Rally 2 at the rally and are the 12th seed for the event.
Rali Bae Ceredigion kicks off on Friday night with a ceremonial start on Aberystwyth’s seafront.
The stage action starts on Saturday morning with a loop of three challenging closed road stages, followed by a lunchtime service halt in Aberystwyth, and then a repeat of the three stages in the afternoon. On Saturday evening, there will be two runs through the Aberystwyth town centre stage.
Sunday brings more closed road stages, a loop of three in the morning, followed by a lunchtime service halt, then the same three stages repeated in the afternoon, after which the ceremonial finish will take place on the promenade in Aberystwyth.
Text by Sean Moriarty