The Year in Review: Rally

Wednesday 27 December 2023

This season has seen Motorsport UK’s many Championships deliver top-class competition and plenty of dramatic action, no more so than in the valleys, forests and on the open roads in rallying. Here’s our review of the many championship battles up and down the country.

Scottish Rally Championship

One of the most open and competitive championship battles for years, it saw four different winners across the eight events, and was only decided on the final stage of the final Rally. David Henderson and Chris Lees leaped from third to first to claim the title in their Rally2 Fiesta, narrowly beating the Impreza of two-time Scottish Champion Jock Armstrong and Hannah McKillop. John Crawford pipped the Rally4 Peugeot of reigning two-wheel drive champion Peter Stewart to the title in his Mk2, again on the final round of the season, with Harry Marchbank retaining the co drivers’ title. Scott Peacock and Craig Wallace took the Challengers Championship in their Evo 8; Robert Proudlock retained the Junior title in his Vauxhall Adam, and fellow Junior Driver Meghan O’Kane secured the Lady Drivers’ title in her Ford Fiesta. Next season will feature seven events, with registrations opening in the New Year after publication of the Championship regulations.

British Historic Rally Championship

A nail-biting season concluded with a head-to-head race for the crown between Roger Chilman with Patrick Walsh, and Nick Elliott alongside Dave Price. Chilman had a blistering start to the campaign, taking back-to-back victories, but his form faded mid-season. A Woodpecker Rally win put him back in contention and he was effectively handed the crown when Elliott beached his Fiat 131 Abarth for nine minutes on the opening stage of the Carlisle Stages. Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke also enjoyed three wins in their Ford Escort MK2, while the Porsche 911 of Richard Tuthill and Stephane Prevot took the Plains Rally victory. Across the Championship, battles raged on for honours, with Josh Carr taking the drivers’ title and Mike Reynolds the co-driver crown in Category Two, for cars registered between 1968-1975. Terry Cree and Richard Shores picked up the title in Category One, for cars registered up to 1968, in their Mini Cooper. The 2024 calendar sees the roster bolstered to nine events, with the best seven scores to count. It will also see the return to a mixed-surface championship, with several top-class closed-road asphalt events.

English Rally Championship

This class-based Championship took in seven of the best forest Rallies of the season and produced some excellent competition. Elliot Payne took the Championship lead in his Fiesta Rally2 with victory in the opening two events but only a handful of points separated the top few drivers for much of the season and it was Ernie Graham who took the title. Arron Newby, Robert Proudlock, Nigel Jenkins, Ben Friend and Rob Wilson all scored maximums along the way, while Ernie Graham, who missed the opening round, took his immaculate MkI Escort RS1600 to maximum scores on the next four rounds to move into a commanding position as the series drew to a close. The format of the English Rally Championship sees cars of similar engine capacity (and power) competing against each other, meaning that it is not necessarily the most powerful that rise to the top. This was illustrated by former champions Steve Black, in a 1400cc Suzuki Swift, and 2022 winner Nick Dobson’s Escort Mk2. Next year’s calendar retains the same seven events and kicks off in the Lake District with the Malcolm Wilson Rally in March.

Northern Ireland Rally Championship

Jonny Greer took his fourth – and third successive – title but it was in the balance right up to the final round. Dominant wins at the first two events put Greer ahead, but his non-finish on the Maiden City Stages allowed winner Derek McGarrity to take the lead. He was still ahead at the season-ending Down Rally, which was won by Cathan McCourt, but Greer’s fourth place was enough to take the title and Desi Henry pushed McGarrity down to third with his co-driver Paddy Robinson taking the overall co-driver title. Drew Stewart topped the 2WD table while Conor Wilson took the FIA 2WD category, and the Junior Drivers and Jimmy Mills won the Historic title. Emma McKinstry won the Ladies award and Maiden City Motor Club repeated last year’s success in the Club Team competition. In the Forest Rally Challenge, Ryan Caldwell won the first two rounds but a non-finish on the third proved costly as Darragh Cairns, who switched car during the season, sealed the title by taking maximum points in his new R5 Skoda. Shane Byrne won the co-driver title sitting alongside Caldwell and Owen McMackin. Andy Magee and Ashley Trimble topped the 2WD category, and Fintan McGrady secured historic honours in his RS1800.

Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship

This was a season to remember as the series celebrated its 40th anniversary, with the title going down to the wire once again. Callum Black and Jack Morton arrived at the Rali Ceredigion double-header finale in fourth place, but a pair of maximum scores saw them rocket up the leader board and clinch their crown in sensational style after an impressive season in their Ford Fiesta Rally2. Neil Roskell had been billed as the man to beat this year having finished third in 2021 and second in 2022. Sure enough, he and co-driver Andrew Roughead led for most of the season, but the rule requiring competitors to drop two scores meant they finished runners-up for the second consecutive year. Darren Atkinson put in a remarkable performance in his Escort Mk2 to claim third in the overall drivers’ standings, while also winning the class B13 and Escort Challenge titles. Equally impressive was William Hill, who dominated class B14 in his Ford Fiesta Rally3, co-driven by Richard Crozier. An enforced swap to a Fiesta R200 for Rali Ceredigion cost him third overall, but fourth was still an astounding achievement. Next year will see the same seven rally / eight round format on some of the best closed road stage events, starting with the Legend Fires North West Stages in March.

British Rally Championship

It was a dominant season for M-Sport’s factory driver Adrien Fourmaux and co-driver Alexandre Coria, with five wins from five starts, handing them the title with a round to spare. The pair dovetailed their campaign with a WRC2 programme, gaining seat time and car upgrades that ultimately led to a Rally1 outing at WRC Japan. Just two other contenders were able to stand on the top step of the podium, with James Williams and Dai Roberts claiming the Rali Ceredigion victory, and Garry Pearson and Hannah McKillop winning the Cambrian Rally, a victory that also secured Pearson second overall in the championship. In contrast, the battle for the Junior honours went down to the wire, with both Kyle White and Kyle McBride in with a shout at the final round of the season in Wales. In the end, White’s four wins against McBride’s one put him in the box seat and a Cambrian finish was enough to secure him the crown he had been longing for since 2021. Alan Carmicheal took back-to-back National Rally Titles and was joined by Claire Williams in the co-driver’s seat. A revitalised championship follows in 2024, bolstered by a brand-new calendar with six gravel and asphalt rounds and plenty of newcomers set to join the regular competitors.

Pirelli Welsh Rally Championship

Matthew Hirst and Declan Dear secured a record equalling third title after another bumper season saw 165 competitors register for the championship. The pair sealed their success with victory in the Wyedean Stages Rally in November, mastering the wet, muddy conditions in their Ford Fiesta R5. Simon Rogers secured the runner-up spot after one of his best seasons in his Mitsubishi Evo 6. Callum Griffiths became the Junior champion, in a Fiesta ST with co-driver William Lewis, after a very close and exciting battle with Sam Mason, who only passed his driving test earlier this year but claimed the runner-up spot and class W4 title with co-driver James Seymour in their SM Autocare Ford Fiesta. Iwan Roberts Jnr and Daniel Jones won the 2WD title in their Ford Escort G3. Callum Griffiths (first FWD) and Boyd Kershaw (first RWD) were second and third. The opening round of the 2024 Championship is the Get Jerky Rally North Wales on Saturday 16 March.

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