The revival of the British Rally Championship

Wednesday 20 March 2024

Rallying is roaring back. After the huge success of last year’s classic Roger Albert Clark and Rali Ceredigion’s promotion to the European Rally Championship, this year’s six-round Probite British Rally Championship not only has a new title partner, but also ITV television coverage plus a bumper entry topped by former BRC champions –  Keith Cronin and Osian Pryce – and European Rally Champion Chris Ingram. Entries from last year’s runner-up Garry Pearson and the likes of Meirion Evans, William Creighton, James Williams, Euan Thorburn as well as young Max McRae add to the welcome air of anticipation.  

With so much good news ahead, we caught up with a delighted and excited BRC Manager, Reece Tarren, on the eve of this weekend’s star-studded opening round – the Legend Fires North West Stages.  

Q: You must be thrilled with the stellar entry list for this year’s Probite British Rally Championship? 

RT: “Very much so. We are truly delighted to be going into one of the healthiest, most competitive seasons the BRC has ever seen. We have managed to create a compact calendar with the lowest ever registration fees and a stellar TV package which has all-in-all contributed to a very exciting campaign in store.” 

Q: What is the thinking behind the new-look calendar for 2024? 

RT: “I have tried to keep this year’s calendar compact and accessible to regenerate interest whilst keeping an eye on being as cost-effective as possible. It is a massive shame to lose out on the Ulster and Ypres, as they are both phenomenal events, but unfortunately, they didn’t quite fit with the objectives for 2024, and it was no secret that we needed to regroup. This isn’t to say we won’t be back of course. Credit must go out to the organisers of each of the six rallies we will attend this year, each made up of teams of volunteers who manage to put on a sporting spectacle for us all. 

“The BRC is one of the few leading national championships in Europe that offers a multi-surface calendar and our calendar has it all. From north and mid-Wales Rally GB classics on the Cambrian and Severn Valley respectively, a new round in the North West takes us over the complex Ribble Valley in Lancashire. The fast-flowing rollercoaster-esque gravel at the Grampian is always a great rally, as well as seeing how our BRC contenders fair up against the best Europe has to offer at Rali Ceredigion. And the anorak inside me cannot wait to see how the Langton water splash unfolds on the Jim Clark Rally, as this was the era of the BRC with which I grew up.” 

Q: The British Rally Championship has always been the perfect proving ground for future world champions – you must be delighted to see the latest BRC champions Adrien Fourmaux and Alexandre Coria doing so well in the WRC. 

RT: “We felt like proud parents watching Rally Sweden unfold. Adrien and Alex proved their worth in 2023 and earned the WRC seat with M-Sport for thier consistent, rapid pace. The BRC, though, has plenty of previous form when it comes to breeding future talent. Former BRC champion Elfyn Evans is at the pinnacle of our sport with Toyota Gazoo Racing and William Creighton, after winning the 2021 Junior BRC title went on to win the Junior WRC and is now in the WRC2 category. 2022 Junior BRC champion Eamonn Kelly is also following in his footsteps by taking on the JWRC for a second consecutive year. In fact, there is an abundance of drivers and co-drivers competing in the WRC and ERC who mastered their craft in the BRC.” 

Q: How important is the new television partnership with ITV4 and what coverage is coming? 

RT: “Having rallying back on a mainstream TV channel is something we have missed for a long time. It’s a huge win for not only the BRC, but UK rallying as a whole as the programme will be reaching out to a whole new audience with many of those viewers new to the sport. With this in mind, there will be explainer segments within the show on how to get involved in the sport and the next steps to take, whether it’s competing, volunteering, officiating or just as simple as getting out and spectating.  

“A one-hour dedicated highlights show will be airing on ITV4, along with each episode available for repeat viewing on the ITVX catch-up service. The exact timings and dates will be announced shortly. There will also be a bonus episode after the Cambrian Rally and before Christmas summarising the 2024 season.” 

Q: Isn’t it great to have the legendary McRae name back in the championship which both his father and uncle won? 

RT: “It’s an iconic name and, of course, Jimmy won the title five times – a feat no one has matched – yet. Max proved that he already has a strong pace when he contested the Cambrian towards the back end of 2023, despite being only his second time in a Rally2 car, and his first on gravel. It will be a true family affair as well; we have Colin’s daughter Hollie joining the TV production this season.” 

Q: Inevitably most of the focus is going to be on the fight at the front, but the Junior Championship is also an important BRC ingredient. What are you doing to help the next generation of drivers and co-driver? 

RT: “The Junior BRC is a great development series for those looking for that bit extra to progress forward and hone their skills. The Juniors compete in Rally4 cars with sequential gearboxes and follow the same route as the overall BRC field and it is also the only place in the UK where crews can take part in a gravel recce which sets the youngsters up for a move into a more powerful BRC class or onto into the international arena. 

“To assist the eventual JBRC champions carve their way up the championship ladder, we will also offer them free entries into each round in 2025, which is worth around £6,000. Having the Stellantis Motorsport Rally Cup IRE & UK join us for four of our rounds has certainly improved the competition amongst the JBRC this year. Ray [Moore, championship organiser] has put a great amount of work into bringing a single-make series to British and Irish shores and there are some great cash incentives available for winners.” 

Q: After a few years in the doldrums, UK rallying seems to be on the up after the huge successes of Rali Ceredigion and the recent Roger Albert Clark Rally – what do put this revival down to? 

RT: “Rali Ceredigion has done wonders over the last few years. From an event that ran for the very first time in 2019, to securing a place on the ERC calendar in such a short timeframe can only be a reflection of the dedication Charlie [Jukes] and the team have put in. 

“The event has everything you could want in a world-class rally, from stages almost reaching 30km in length, to blasts around Aberystwyth town centre. Seeing the seaside town packed with spectators is fantastic for the sport ,and the local community must be thrilled with the business it generates. 

“The Roger Albert Clark Rally is a historical masterpiece and really plays homage to some of the most iconic memories in British rallying. While I’m a bit too young to have witnessed the likes of Ari Vatanen and company sliding MK2 Escorts around in period, some of the crews that take part in the mammoth event do a great job at replicating that. It’s a very well-established rally that is very unique, which is the reason it attracts some of the big names it does. 

Q: Finally, where’s your money on a BRC title winner? 

RT: “I’m definitely not prepared to put a name down on paper! As we have seen in the past, titles can be won by just 0.1s just like in 2017. That will be one of my all-time favourite BRC seasons, not only was it the first year I was involved, but the iconic ‘Rumble on the Rock’ with Keith Cronin, Fredrick Ahlin and Matt Edwards all in with a chance of the title, with the former taking home the honours on the final stage of the rally. This season, too, could see us in for one of the closest title fights we have witnessed in a long time.

“Some drivers to look out for will be 2019 European Rally champion Chris Ingram, four-time BRC champion Keith Cronin on his quest for a fifth and 2022 champion Osian Pryce. Throw in the likes of William Creighton, and a dark horse or two like Asphalt champion Callum Black and Junior BRC champion, Kyle White, plus the M-Sport pair of Max McRae and Garry Pearson and it just becomes a lottery. I’m not betting on a winner, but I`m very excited to watch the season unfold.”