THE MSA BRITISH RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP has travelled the length and breadth of the UK, taking in rounds in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and so far this season, three different event winners as well as eight different crews have stood on the podium in the opening five rounds.
Championship leader, Elfyn Evans, in his DMACK British Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5, has already recorded a hat-trick of victories.
The World Rally Championship star has shown his quality, taking the spoils on the Mid Wales Stages, Scottish Rally and Nicky Grist Stages – and comes to the Ulster Rally as the favourite for outright victory.
The Welshman, with Craig Parry sat alongside, won’t have it his own way as the chasing pack will all want to topple the series leader.
Tom Cave has been improving in pace as the campaign has unfolded, having never been out of the top four with James Morgan on the notes. Cave is desperate to take a win in 2016 and will pull out all the stops to beat fellow countryman Evans in his Michelin-shod Fiesta R5.
Swedish sensation Fredrik Ahlin and Norwegian navigator Morten Erik Abrahamsen (Ford Fiesta R5) have had a rollercoaster of a season to date. The Pirelli-backed driver pushed Evans all the way on the opening round before landing his first win on round three, the Pirelli Carlisle Rally two months later. Costly errors on the Circuit of Ireland and the Nicky Grist Stages, along with a mechanical failure on the Scottish, put the Scandinavian in third on the championship points board.
Ahlin is one man who is hoping for the luck of the Irish to help bring him back into the title fight. CA1 Sport teammate David Bogie (Skoda Fabia R5) with Irish co-driver James O’Reilly find themselves seventh in the standings. The Scottish driver has shown blistering pace this season and will want to harness the speed and return to the podium, which he last achieved on the Circuit of Ireland.
In 2016, drivers have elected to play their ‘Jokers’ to double their points. Two drivers yet to play their card are dark horses for rostrum honours. Josh Moffett/ John Rowan (Ford Fiesta R5) won the BRC element on the Circuit of Ireland and Jonathan Greer/Kirsty Riddick (Citroen DS3 R5), who finished just behind the Fiesta pairing, will want to emulate their success on home ground this weekend.
Watch out too for a whole host of series returnees. Multiple BRC champion Keith Cronin/Mikie Galvin (Citroen DS3 R5) will want a strong BRC finish to show his class. Local stars Marty McCormack and David Moynihan in their Skoda Fabia S2000 held the lead on the Circuit of Ireland, before a heart-wrenching fuel pump failure denied them a home win. A committed driver, McCormack won’t hang around in his Kumho-backed machine.
Matt Edwards and Will Rogers have had a phenomenal season in their Mitsubishi Evo 9 in the BRC2 category, wrapping up the title on the previous round – the Nicky Grist Stages. The pair will be eager to shine on the Ulster as the crew step-up to the BRC1 category, driving a brand-new Ford Fiesta R5.