Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Kyle McBride will have to dig deep over the final two rounds of the Junior British Rally Championship to wrestle the title from Kyle While.
McBride and co-driver Liam McIntyre were one of three Irish drivers in a position to win the Junior BRC ahead of the weekend’s Rali Bae Ceredigion in Wales.
Before the two-day rally in Aberystwyth, Motorsport Ireland licence holder, White, topped the points league.
Donegal’s McBride was second and Casey Jay Coleman third. However, when the Tipperary driver elected to sit out the rally the title fight became a two-way fight. White and co-driver Sean Topping finished second in the category behind local driver Ioan Lloyd. The Welshman cannot score championship points as he was a late registration for the series so maximum points were awarded to the Irish crew.
This was their second win on the trot in the championship after already taking the victory in the same category at the Ulster Rally last month.
White took a cautious approach to the Sunday leg, and despite leading on Saturday evening he was quite happy to let Lloyd push on as he had one eye on the championship.
“I have the car set on the lowest possible lag setting, it is near enough a drive-through,” said White.
There are two rounds left in this year’s British Rally Championship – the Trackrod Rally in Yorkshire and a return to Wales for the Cambrian in late October – but with double points on offer for the final round, it is still mathematically possible for Rally Academy driver McBride to win the title.
The Donegal crew started day two of Rali Bae Ceredigion in second place in the championship standings and were determined to reel their main rivals over Sunday’s six-stage loop.
However, their challenge came undone on Sunday’s second stage.
“Over a crest and we ran wide and clipped a stump. No major damage just steering arm and wishbone,” he explained.
His rally ended there and then but he has two more chances left to try and overcome White in what is sure to be a dramatic end to the season and title fight.
Galway’s Aoife Raftery, another Rally Academy member, recorded her first Junior British Rally Championship podium at the event.
Although not registered for the championship the Craughwell woman finished third in the category while up against some of the championship’s most experienced Junior drivers including Lloyd, White and McBride.
Raftery is contesting this year’s FIA Junior European Rally Championship in a PCRS Rallysport run Peugeot 208 Rally 4 but used an older and less powerful Ford Fiesta Rally 2 1600 for this rally.
Her prime reason for entering the rally was to learn the stages ahead of the event’s possible inclusion in the European Rally Championship next year.
She and co-driver Geraldine McBride held fourth in class overnight but a solid run through Sunday’s loop of six stages had the rally’s only all-female crew on the podium by the end. They also finished an impressive 25th overall – one of Raftery’s best results on an international rally to date.
“It was great to build our knowledge on these kinds of roads,” she said. “The roads are really committed and fast, we really enjoyed being here learning the stages.”
A spin on stage two on Saturday cost valuable time but a very committed run over the daunting 17-mile Cwm Ystwyth stage got her back on track.
“Stage three was crazy, I have no problems with the distance, I have that experience from previous [European] events, but we are going from corner to corner flat out, it is all going well.”
She continued her strong push over the afternoon stages, clearly missing the additional power of her usual Peugeot, and with her Fiesta showing battle scars – a testament to just how hard she was trying.
“We are happy with our pace, we are here to learn the roads and the technical stages,” she added after six of Saturday’s eight stages.
“The lack of power means we cannot keep up with the Rally4 boys.”
Rising Waterford star, 19-year-old Jack Brennan is contesting 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 won the Rally 5 class.
“I was lacking a bit of confidence on the long stage,” he said on Saturday evening. “The length of it caught me out, I am enjoying it, it is all about seat time and learning these bigger rallies.”
His confidence increased on Sunday and he maintained his overnight class lead to record his first-ever overseas win.
“I definitely had more confidence on Sunday, we got into more of a flow and a rhythm,” he added.
Other Irish interest in the event included County Down co-driver Richard Crozier who won his class alongside William Hill in a Ford Fiesta R200. Andrew Purcell and Shane Buckley were ninth in their Volkswagen Polo Rally2.
Lakeland Forestry Rally
Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy member Patrick and his co-driving brother Stephen O’Brien won Saturday’s Lakeland Forestry Rally in County Fermanagh in their Skoda Fabia. It was the defending Motorsport Ireland Forestry Rally champions’ first win of the season.
This pic above is by Cian Donellan
Ryan Caldwell’s fourth place puts him in the driving seat to become the Irish forestry champion for the first time. Just two rounds remain, the Bushwhacker Rally and the Carrick-on-Suir Forestry Rally.
This pic above by Cian Donellan
Text By Sean Moriarty