The British Rally Championship returns at the end of May after a 15-month break with a flooded entry list filled with competitive Irish crews.
Oulton Park hosts round one, the Neil Howard Stages, which is also a round of the Motorsport News Circuit Rally Championship.
15 R5 rally cars will vie for glory on the eight-stage single-day event with many Irish rally regulars making the trip across the water to fill the void at home.
The Neil Howard Stages has received entries from Sam and Josh Moffett as well as Desi Henry and Joe McGonigle. The Irish Tarmac Rally Championship regulars are well accustomed to asphalt rallying albeit on closed roads rather than circuit-based events.
There are also entries from 2018 Billy Coleman Award winner James Wilson, Niall Henry, and Irish Forestry man Martin McKenna. It will be Wilson’s first outing since winning Carrick-on-Suir’s Forestry Rally over a year ago.
It will be a proper battle between Irish crews and BRC’s usual mainland contenders. Matt Edwards will defend his title in a Volkswagen Polo R5 while Rhys Yates and Osian Pryce chase their first British crown.
Ollie Mellors is another contender in his Proton Iriz R5 after fourth and third overall finishes on the Cambrian Rally and Birr Stages Rally early in 2020.
BRC’s Rally4 class is looking equally as strong with no fewer than eight young drivers from Ireland entering the Neil Howard Stages.
Junior WRC driver, William Creighton, will hope to pick up where he left in the BRC – he was the front-wheel-drive man to beat on last season’s sole rally, the Cambrian Rally.
2017 Irish National Junior Champion, Brian Brady, knows his way around asphalt stages and will be more than a dark horse on his second outing in a Ford Fiesta Rally4.
In fact, the battle for BRC 4 honours is too close to call. Galway Rally class winner, Eamonn Kelly, is another worth watching as he looks to follow in his Father Donagh’s successful footsteps.
Casey Jay Coleman, Jason Dickson, Johnnie Mulholland, James Boland, and Kyle White will also make the trip over the Irish Sea in various R2/Rally4 cars. They’ll face stiff competition from seasoned Junior BRC drivers like Ruairi Bell and Finlay Retson as they chase a Hyundai i20 Rally2 World Rally Championship prize drive.
Photos by Adam Hall and Gavin Woods