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Rally Academy member Kyle McBride wins final Junior BRC round


Irish eyes were most certainly smiling at the finale of the British Rally Championship on Saturday. Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy drivers dominated the Junior class at the Visit Conway Cambrian Rally in North Wales.


Jack Brennan and co-driver John McGrath raised a few eyebrows in their first overseas gravel rally and their second event in a newly acquired Peugeot 208 Rally4. Although not registered for the Junior British Rally championship they led the Rally4 class from start to finish and recorded an impressive sixth overall finish.



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“We started off in the morning not very optimistic, we just kind of went out to judge our pace after the first stage. We were a bit shocked with the time when we saw it. We just kept the pace up from there,” he said at the finish line in Llandudno on Saturday evening.

“It was an absolutely amazing weekend to end of the year and only our second day in a Rally4 car. We are absolutely delighted with the weekend. It could not have gone any better.”



The rally took place on Iconic forest stages that were previously used by Wales Rally GB when the World Rally Championship visited that part of the world.


Roads like Brenig, Elsi and Cloc Main are familiar to fans and drivers alike but for Brennan and his fellow Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy drivers, it was their first time seeing these roads.


“The motor club put on absolutely unbelievable stages,” added Brennan. “They had a bit of everything in of them, old Rally GB stages, so you can imagine the credentials of them stages.”


Donegal’s Kyle McBride experienced two opposite ends of the emotional scale on the event.

The Ford Fiesta Rally4 driver, aided as usual by co-driver Liam McIntyre, won the Junior British Rally Championship section of the rally but it was not enough to wrestle the British Junior title from fellow Motorsport Ireland licence holder Kyle White.


Even a puncture on the event’s penultimate stage could not prevent him from winning the category but it still was not enough to win the championship.


“It has been a great weekend finishing the British Rally Championship off with first place Junior home and really happy with our pace,” he said. “We were happy to take the championship fight down to the last round. Unfortunately, it didn't work out our way. We are happy to get to the finish with yet another BRC win. It is great for the team and the Academy and this huge effort they are putting in.”


Peugeot 208 driver White needed only to finish the event to be assured of the title. The County Down driver and co-driver Sean Topping were never in the fight for event honours after their car developed an engine misfire on the opening test.


After that they took a sensible approach to the event, knowing that reaching the finish ramp in Llandudno would be enough to claim the British Junior title.



Billy Coleman Award nominee Keelan Grogan and his Galway co-driver Ayrton Sherlock were also competing in their first overseas event and they took an impressive second place behind McBride.


They set a string of top ten overall times on their way to second in the Junior British Championship section.



Galway’s Aoife Raftery made her own piece of motorsport history at the event.

She and co-driver Damian Connolly set the pace on the opening stage of the event and became the first woman ever to lead a round of the Junior British Rally Championship.


Unfortunately, her Ford Fiesta Rally4 developed brake problems on that opening stage and was forced to drive the remaining two tests of the opening loop with just front brakes.

However, the crew showed their ingenuity effecting their own temporary repairs which allowed them to continue safely.



The delay in fixing the issue dropped them down the running order, meaning they started the last stage later than anticipated and under the cover of darkness which deprived the Galway/Monaghan crew of a deserved top-ten result.



Another Irish crew making their debut in Wales was recent Motorsport Ireland Forestry Rally Championship Junior 1000 graduate Jack Harris and co-driver Aaron O’Regan.

They made the switch to Ford Fiesta R2 power in time for the Davagh Rally in Northern Ireland in August and have since contested the Bushwhacker Rally in September.

Their efforts were rewarded with an impressive tenth overall in what was, too, their first overseas event.




Text by Sean Moriarty

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