A star-studded British Rally Championship has offered a welcome return to competitive stage action in the United Kingdom this year. It won’t shock many to learn double champion Matt Edwards leads BRC’s headline category after the first two rounds.
But who leads Junior BRC after the Neil Howard Stages and Nicky Grist Stages?
World Rally Championship’s Will Creighton? 2020 Junior WRC stage winner Ruairi Bell? Junior BRC’s seasoned Scotsman Finlay Retson?
No, no, and no.
Instead it is South Belfast mechanic – Kyle White. A second and third is enough to lead rival Retson by three points heading into BRC’s third round in August – the Grampian Forest Stages.
White started his first-ever BRC assault as a self-confessed underdog. Driving a dated Peugeot 208 R2 against M-Sport’s new Rally4 Fiesta, few could have predicted White’s early impression on the highly rated junior series.
In fact, few even knew the Northern Irishman at all.
“When we arrived for sign-on nobody had heard of us before,” explained White. “They asked who I was and I said ‘Kyle White’ – all I got back was ‘Kyle who?’
“Not that I was out to prove a point but it made me realise where I was at.
“We started the season as massive underdogs so to be in the position we’re in is absolutely fantastic.”
The 25-year-old’s story might have been told in jest but his overseas inexperience did bring a few practical problems. White received low seedings for both the Oulton Park based opener and Wales’ gravel forests. The issue was most prevalent on the congested Neil Howard Stages but it didn’t stop White and co-driver Sean Topping from picking up a runner-up finish on their BRC debut.
White missed out on a repeat result in July by a slender two seconds. A final stage win by Retson displaced White from second but it was still an encouraging podium result. And more importantly, he knows exactly where things went wrong in Wales.
“We only took one spare tyre into the final loop whereas the other guys took two.
“They put the two new tyres on the front of the car halfway through the loop. We lost so much time on the last two stages because the tyres were shot.
“It’s all a massive learning curve because before that I had only done two stages in a loop rather than four.
“Now I know what to expect for the next gravel rallies.”
White has also discovered the difference between Welsh gravel and Irish gravel – surface grades, rutted corners… It’s all going into his memory bank. Now he’ll add Scottish gravel to the list when he arrives at August’s Grampian Forest Stages.
Leading the Junior BRC, White admits he won’t be changing his game plan.
“We are still being level headed about the whole thing, we are down on horsepower and torque compared to these Fiestas so we are not going to get too far ahead of ourselves.
“We would love to upgrade to one of the new Rally4 cars but doing the championship and trying to fund a new car at the same time would be a wee bit out of our reach.
“That is one thing that we are hoping to work out in the second half of the year. All we can do is go out, do our own rallies, drive as quick as we can, and see where we end up.”
With Belfast neighbour, and Junior BRC favourite, William Creighton missing Grampian due to Junior WRC commitments, White faces an incredible opportunity to build his current form. But the Junior BRC leader won’t get carried away – he doesn’t want to over step his lack of British rallying experience and ultimately his lack of front-wheel-drive grunt.
“As much as I would like to get a win under my belt, at the end of the day points mean prizes when it comes to a championship battle.”
Photos courtesy of British Rally Championship