Picking a pre-season favourite is never an easy task. But with the 2020 British Rally Championship it’s nigh on impossible such is the star-studded entry that will be taking to the stages on Saturday’s Cambrian Rally.
If it’s continuity you fancy then Tom Cave is your man. Back in a Hyundai i20 R5 this season, Cave pushed reigning champion Matt Edwards all the way last term only to miss out with a costly error in Ulster.
A three-time BRC runner-up, it is win or bust for Cave this season who will be partnered by Osian Pryce’s usual co-driver Dale Furniss in 2020. A win on the Cambrian will be the perfect statement of intent and the ideal way to banish demons from last year’s heart-breaking retirement on the way back to Llandudno.
However, a win on the Cambrian is going to be some ask given who he’ll be up against. Also in the Hyundai corner is Pryce for his second event in an i20 R5. The last time these two battled in identical cars it was Pryce who had the edge. But that was on the Tarmac of Rali Bae Ceredigion. What can Pryce, himself a two-time BRC runner-up, do on the loose on his first BRC appearance since 2017?
Also returning this year is WRC2 star Rhys Yates, armed with M-Sport’s latest Fiesta R5. Yates has still never won a BRC round but his aim is bigger: the title. But to do that he’ll have to topple the champion who is also in the cockpit of a Fiesta R5 Mk2.
The omens are stacked in Edwards’ favour who is odds on favourite to take back to back wins on his home event on Saturday. Back with Darren Garrod for 2020, the Welshman is eyeing the chance to make history and become the first driver in championship history to claim three titles on the bounce. And the car he’s driving has good history too having won the only two events it has started in the hands of Stephane Lefebvre and Josh Moffett.
These four protagonists represent the known quantities. But the challenge from the young guns is set to be stern and will provide a superb sub-plot throughout the season.
Billy Coleman Award winner Josh McErlean is tipped to be Ireland’s next big star. At the controls of a Hyundai R5 for a full season, McErlean talks a sensible game revolved around the need to collect experience, but his pace on Wales Rally GB last year was sublime. And guess what, the Cambrian uses stages that feature on Rally GB.
Old Junior BRC rival James Williams also graduates to the top flight in 2020 and will partner Ollie Mellors in a two-pronged Proton attack. Both drivers are ones to watch but Mellors is a real dark horse for overall glory following his supreme form in the BTRDA at the end of 2019.
JWRC driver Tom Williams has made the step into four-wheel-drive and has chosen the BRC as his battleground. He and Cathan McCourt will both pilot the Ford Fiesta R5: the only car to win the BRC since it relaunched in 2016.
It’s hard to think of a more eagerly-anticipated BRC season than the one that lies before us. Whoever comes out on top of this one will truly have earned the right to call themselves British Rally Champion.
Photo: British Rally Championship