This year’s Junior British Rally Championship title is set to be fought between two of Northern Ireland’s most promising drivers. Belfast’s William Creighton and Claudy’s Callum Devine travel to the Isle of Man in a head-to-head battle for the 2018 Junior BRC honours.
Norway’s Oscar Solberg can mathematically take the title but, 36 points behind Creighton, he relies on both Ulstermen encountering problems.
Creighton currently tops the Junior BRC standings following his recent Ulster Rally victory in his Peugeot 208 R2. Devine is 13 points behind the leader and with three dropped scores coming into play after the double-header event he remains very much in contention.
Creighton and Devine arrived at the previous round, the Ulster Rally, level on points and a tight battle pursued through the first day. However, Devine’s local event was to come to a premature end when his Opel Adam R2’s alternator failed on Saturday morning’s Rousky stage.
The championship scenarios are countless but perhaps the most applicable is if Devine wins both Isle of Man rounds and Creighton finishes second on both, even considering Creighton’s Joker bonus, Devine will take the Junior BRC honours.
There is no doubt that Creighton is in the driving seat but Devine’s pace since returning to the Adam cannot be overlooked and with £30,000 at stake both men are more than capable of winning at the Isle of Man.
Creighton has had an impressive debut season in the BRC. With very little gravel experience he quickly adapted to the loose surface and won the second round of the season, The Border Counties Rally.
“We decided to do the BRC at the start of the year,” said Creighton.
“If you had told us at the start of the year this is the position we’d be in going into the Isle of Man, we wouldn’t have believed you.”
“I didn’t have any gravel experience coming into the season but I have really enjoyed it. I’m now a bit of a gravel convert.”
“Our pace has just got quicker through the year and hopefully it will get even quicker at the Isle of Man.”
The 19-year-old played it cool when asked his title position.
“We will go in and give it our best shot,” said Creighton.
“We are leading now so anything can happen. We are really looking forward to it and we’ll just take it as a normal rally and enjoy it.”
Devine admitted his disappointment in how his Junior BRC winning streak ended. Retiring from his local event was not what the 23-year-old had planned after winning on the two previous BRC events, Ypres Rally and Nicky Grist Stages.
“I just put the car in the shed and said I never want to look at you again,” said Devine.
“We’ve had no real luck, just wee bothers all year, even on the rallies we did win.”
“In Ypres, we were keeping up with Chris Ingram on the opening day but the next day I hit the wheel hub on the opening stages and bent the steering. We had to drive the rest of the rally like that.”
Despite retiring, Devine was still pleased with his pace at the Ulster Rally.
“The rally was going well, William [Creighton] was going hard,” said Devine.
“It was good for both of us, pushing us both along and keeping us locked into something.”
“I pulled away a wee bit but got a puncture and lost the time.”
“Then after that we knew we had around 30 seconds to pull back going into the last stage on Friday night. We had a real good cut over the small stage [Butterlope] and pulled a bit back.”
“We pulled it back to seconds before the alternator packed up in Rousky.”
Looking ahead to the Isle of Man Devine understood his position but admitted it is anyone’s rally with many strong contenders currently in the BRC’s Junior category.
“I need to win the two rounds,” said Devine.
“We’ll give it a rattle and it will come down to a fight at the end of the day.”
Solberg is the dark horse going to the Manx event. He won the opening Junior BRC round but has endured plenty of misfortune through the season. As Devine pointed out, “He’s had worse luck than me!”
The young Norwegian will be ready to pick up the pieces should his two rivals hit trouble on the challenging Isle of Man stages.
It is, however, Creighton and Devine that head to the final event as title favourites, following in the footsteps of another Irish driver, Rob Duggan, who won the 2016 title.
The question remains, will it be Creighton’s Peugeot 208, Devine’s Opel Adam or perhaps Solberg’s Ford Fiesta in the centre of championship celebrations come Saturday evening at Douglas’s famous TT grandstand?
Words and images by Adam Hall