This year’s British Rally Championship is flooded with talented drivers from Ireland. Irish Tarmac Rally Championship regulars will be vying for overall BRC honours while the Junior BRC looks set to be a battle between Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy members.
Brian Brady is one of those academy members fighting for victory in Junior BRC. Up against several experienced Rally4 competitors, Brady faces stiff opposition. But is Ireland’s 2017 National Junior Champion a dark horse in this year’s British championship?
Brady made his BRC debut on the Cambrian Rally early last year but a Stage 3 roll brought an end to his first event outside Ireland. However, competitive stage times on the opening tests hinted at Brady’s pacey potential in the Ford Fiesta R2T.
“We went out last year with a 50-kilometre test and that was the only driving we had in the Fiesta,” said Brady. “I suppose it was good to be on the pace on the first stage and we have to take our crash on the chin.
“It was driver error but I wasn’t the only driver to go off on that stage.
“It’s definitely better to have our own car this year. Even from a test point of view, we are able to get more mileage when and where we want.
“There will be very little between everyone on Monday with it being on a track we’ll have to be on the pace from the word go.”
With his own Rally4 Fiesta prepped for the Neil Howard Stages at Oulton Park, Brady feels more comfortable ahead of this year’s BRC opener. The Oldcastle driver completed a one and a half hour test at Oulton Park last week and reckons it puts him in a beneficial position for the circuit-based rally.
“Of course we would like to win but there are guys like William Creighton who have done a lot of rallying already in the car this year. That’s a massive fight straightaway.
“I don’t know if I’ll give it 100% on the gravel in the second round or if I’ll go at 98% just to see where we are even.
“We are giving it our all at the minute to see how it goes. Obviously, we would like to be going to the Ulster Rally with the chance of winning the championship if we could.”
Like many young drivers in Ireland, the MI Rally Academy has been crucial in Brady’s step from National rallies at home to a BRC campaign. His success in the J1600 dual-surface championship in 2019 kick-started it all.
“When there was an incentive there to progress, we took it. We downgraded our fully modified Class 16 Honda Civic to do the junior dual-surface series.
“We won the prize for that and that is how we got into homologated rallying.
“Going abroad was the next step for me and the Junior BRC’s prizes are definitely enticing.
“It’s all about where you want to see yourself in five years.”
So for a man that now has experience of modified and homologation rally cars, what has he learned so far?
“The cost of running a Rally4 car is immense. The Honda Civic is very cheap to run and Class 16 now is night and day to a Rally4 car.
“Realistically it could be ten times more expensive to run a Rally4 car than a Civic.
“For somebody starting off, I’d guide them to Class 16 straight away because it is cheap rallying and you gain a lot of experience from it.”
Class 16’s crackdown on costs has made it a crucial stepping stone in proving a young driver’s potential. Brady had success in both his highly-strung Civic as well as his toned-down version.
It’s this experience of running, setting up, and rallying his own car that should stand him in good stead for his first homologated outings in this year’s Junior BRC.
For those starting off in their rally career, Brady will be a good figure to follow to see how his Class 16 upbringing has prepared him for the British Championship. And he made sure to point out he is happy to talk to any young driver with questions about their first steps in rallying.
Photos courtesy of BRC and Adam Hall