The British Rally Championship moves to Belgium this weekend giving the Irish registered crews a chance to compete in one of the most significant rallies in Europe. The Ypres Rally, based in the historic town of the same name is one of the most popular rallies in the world and the legendary closed-road tarmac roads in the Flanders region offer up some of the most challenging and unforgiving stages.
The 18-stage rally gets underway at 4 pm local time on Friday and runs until dusk on Saturday. The majority of the Motorsport Ireland crews contesting this year’s British Rally Championship – particularly those in the Rally 3 and Junior Rally 4 categories have entered the legendary event.
They will be joined by a few interlopers, keen to get their first taste of this rally that has witnessed plenty of Irish success in the past.
Co-driver Paul Nagle is a double winner, once alongside Kris Meeke in 2009 and more recently in 2019 when he guided Craig Breen to a dominant win there.
Clare driver Niall O’Sullivan and his Cork co-driver, Rally Academy member Grace O’Brien continue their Stellantis Cup Belux campaign in their Peugeot 208 Rally4.
This is their third event together in Belgium this year although O’Sullivan did contest last month’s Monteberg Rally in the same region as a training exercise for Rally Ypres.
He will be counting on his extensive Belgian experience, including the last two editions of the Ypres Rally when it featured in the World Rally Championship.
Sligo co-driver Darragh Mullen returns to Belgium too, alongside Scotland’s Fraser Anderson in a Ford Fiesta Rally 3.
They are contesting this year’s Belgian Junior Championship and Mullen, like O’Sullivan, has plenty of local knowledge having competed on rounds of the Flanders International Rally Challenge in 2019 and 2021 alongside London-based Galway man John Reddington.
BRC3 frontrunner Johnnie Mulholland and his Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy co-driver Eoin Treacy will compete in their Ford Fiesta Rally3.
The 2021 Academy Trophy champion made the switch to the Rally3 category in 2023 and has spent the opening two British Rally Championship rounds of the season acclimatising to both four-wheel-drive and the new-driving style required in the step up from his Rally4 Fiesta from last season.
Joining them in the Rally3 class, as a once-off, are James Boland and John McCay in another Fiesta. The Wexford/Derry pairing is travelling to Belgium for an adventure and to gain experience on the famous Flemish roads.
Junior BRC leader and Peugeot 208 Rally4 driver Kyle White has enjoyed two BRC wins already this season and is eager to make it a hattrick in the Belgian lanes. Along with co-driver Sean Topping, White has enjoyed winning ways but will now pit himself against the rapid tarmac experts of mainland Europe.
Kyle McBride endured a difficult Jim Clark Rally after crashing his Fiesta Rally4 on the opening night stages. However, stellar work by the team saw them rebuild his Fiesta Rally4 enough to continue the following day and secure valuable points in his Junior BRC campaign trail. McBride and Liam McIntyre have their sights set on White but could also spring some surprises overall during the weekend, despite making their European rally debut.
Casey Jay Coleman was forced to skip the Jim Clark but returns in Belgium for a shot at the Junior BRC. The young Tipperary man already has some experience abroad, including outings in Italy, but this marks his first trip to Ypres and will drive his familiar Fiesta Rally4.
The Rally Academy co-driver Lorcan Moore will partner Coleman in Belgium.
Championship frontrunners Keith Cronin and Mikie Galvin have opted to skip the Belgian round but will return to the series in August in time for the Ulster Rally.
The West Cork-based Volkswagen Polo R5 driver is chasing a recording equalling fifth British title while Killarney man Galvin is chasing his second.
National championship frontrunner and Jim Clark Rally category winners Alan Carmichael and his Motorsport Ireland co-driver Arthur Kierans have also opted out of the Belgian round.