The NGK Spark Plugs BRC Challenge (BRCC) moves to the forests of North Wales for the Bulldog Rally and round two of the 2012 season this weekend, with leader James Ford hoping a move to Citroënpower will keep him ahead of the pack.
This rally is a favourite of the competitors and fans alike and has provided some of the best action over the years on the very technically challenging yet rewarding stages. The event is once again based at the Livestock Sales market in Welshpool just off the A458, and this year sees the 52nd running of the event.
As with all rounds of the NGK BRCC there will be a ceremonial start in Welshpool town centre on Friday night, giving spectators the chance to meet and greet the competing crews and their machinery.
Round one saw the MSA British Rally Championship support series tackle the Dorset forestry roads of Rallye Sunseeker for the first time, and with it crown a maiden victory for James Ford. The south coast event offered a new set of challenges for the drivers and co-drivers, many of which had never competed on the stages before, but the close action has already set the 2012 season alight. Going into the last stage both the crews of Russ Thompson and Andy Murphy in their Renault Clio and the Mk2 Escort of James Ford and Neil Colman were inseparable.
The twenty one year old from Preston took a dramatic win on his debut after setting six fastest times. But going into the final stage it was Russ Thompson that held the slenderest of margins over Ford, until his gearbox broke. The two youngsters will certainly be looking to continue their good form in Wales this weekend. Although, Ford, will be competing in his new Citroën C2R2 Max for the first time having just purchased the car from BRC front runner Desi Henry.
Hot on their heels in the south coast were the experienced trio of Richard Archer, Simon Moore and Richard Sykes in his C2R2. Sykes alongside co-driver Simon Taylor though were the only one of the three crews who managed to finish the event, in second place, after the other two suffered mechanical breakdowns. Sykes is quick and in Dorset set the pace on the opening stage ahead of the rest of the field, he will be looking for a similar start in Wales.
But all three will be a serious threat if their machinery remains intact. Archer and John Connor in their spectacular looking ex-works Opel Corsa already have NGK BRCC rally wins to their name and Moore was last season’s runner up finishing just behind Champion Jack Rowe. With his ever present, Emma Morrison, in the second seat of the quick lightweight Clio, this pairing will no doubt be up at the sharp end of proceedings. Moore and Morrison will hope for better luck though this weekend after they suffered rear suspension failure on last year’s event when on course for a top three finish. A reminder that the Welsh stages can be very unforgiving.
Third on round one and leading RC3 competitors were Graham Roberts and Ryan Dooley, like Sykes and now Ford, driving a Citroën C2, will be looking for more of the same on their second outing of the season. Their class opposition in Wales will be in the shape of Mark McCulloch, Stephen Barker and John Byrnes as well as last year’s RC2 class winner Kevin Vondy. Another class competitor comes by the way of James Watts who had a successful run on the National event of Wales Rally GB last year, finishing 36th out of 81 competitors and proving the 23 year old from Hertfordshire is in good form.
Perhaps the toughest class to predict will be RC4 which includes Thompson and Moore in their Renault Clios as well as leading Fiesta SportChallenge driver Tony Simpson. Joining them in class are fellow FSC drivers Adam Taylor and Damian Smith alongside Steven Smith, no relation. Irishman Jon Armstrong and Yorkshireman Luke Pinder also join the series for the North Wales event in RC4.
Class RC5 will see Archer, Ford and Sykes do battle again alongside Melrose driver Gareth White and his co-driver Mike Dickson.
The NGK Spark Plugs BRC Challenge is designed as a feeder series to the main MSA British Rally Championship and has become widely popular with drivers and co-drivers throughout the UK and Ireland. The a 2.0 litre limit and two wheel drive format with no need for homologation has proven a successful formula among competitors of varying degrees of success and ability.
Continuing in 2012 is the NGK BRC Challenge Star of the Future award which will be presented to the outstanding driver of the year under the age of 21.
To stay in touch with all the action tune into British Rally Radio, log on to the website at www.brcchallenge.co.uk, download the BRC App for free or follow our Twitter feed @britishrally.
Alternatively get out on the stages and do all of the above too.
For more information on the NGK Spark Plugs BRC Challenge visit www.rallybrcchallenge.co.uk
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