Jim Clark Rally - BRC Round 2

The Motorsport UK British Rally Championship heads to Duns this weekend [27-28 May], as the Beatson's Building Supplies Jim Clark Rally makes a welcome return to the action-packed roster after seven years away from the Scottish Borders lanes. The last time the UK's premier rally series used the unforgivable Berwickshire closed roads; it was the era which saw only two-wheel-drive cars eligible to compete. Now, a blistering array of top-flight BRC1 crews in a variety of Rally2, four-wheel-drive, turbocharged machinery line up to do battle over the two-day event, as will a dynamic and impressive line-up of ultra-rapid Junior and Academy drivers, each aiming to take the spoils at the last asphalt round of the series until September.

Taking the opening round win, 2021 championship runners-up Osian Pryce and co-driver Noel O'Sullivan secured a thrilling victory in the Essex lanes, overhauling four-time BRC champion Keith Cronin in the final throws of the event and will wear the coveted number one on the doors of their Melvyn Evans Motorsport run Volkswagen Polo GTi. Driving the Michelin shod machine for the second successive season, Pryce is in no mood to play second fiddle again and will be looking for another maximum point haul to keep his dream alive. But Cronin has form on the Clark. A previous winner of the rally in 2012, the Irishman knows what it takes to master the Borders lanes and will be charging as hard as he dares in the Hankook backed Volkswagen Polo GTi with Mikie Galvin on the notes.

But the BRC is not known for being predictable and any one of the front-runners could well take the spoils in Scotland. James Williams and Dai Roberts kicked off their first full BRC1 campaign in superb style in Clacton, taking their Hyundai i20 to a stellar podium spot after a progressively improving pace over the weekend. Going one or even two better this time around is a distinct possibility.

Ruari Bell and Max Freeman made a huge impression on the BRC leader board at round one, challenging Cronin for the lead before being forced into retirement with a damaged radiator. Their Pirelli-shod Skoda Fabia could well be suited perfectly to the bumpy tar in Berwickshire and a maiden BRC win is not far away. Garry Pearson will be calling on all his local knowledge to right the wrongs of the opening round after ending his rally in a ditch. The Duns driver will be driving the roads just a few miles from his home but will still need to dig deep in his Ford Fiesta Rally2 to take it to the front of the pack. Dale Furniss returns to the co-driver's seat and the pairing will understandably be playing their Joker for a potential points bonus.

Jason Pritchard and Phil Clarke endured a difficult season opener and will be looking to find some much-needed luck as they take their Polo GTi to the Jim Clark for the very first time. Pritchard has tackled the event previously, although he will need to draw from the distant memory banks as it was during his last BRC campaign back in 2011. Elliott Payne is a self-professed gravel man but the nineteen-year-old proved his ability on any surface with fourth place on the sealed surface season opener in Essex. With Tom Woodburn in the co-driver's seat, Payne was beaming after his closed road debut and that confidence could well net a good result this time around.

Instrumental in securing Melvyn Evans Motorsport the BRC Teams title in 2021, Meirion Evans makes his BRC1 debut at the Jim Clark Rally, driving a Polo GTi. Announced only this week, Evans and co-driver Jonathan Jackson have a blistering asphalt pace as proven during their Irish Tarmac campaign and could well disrupt the podium. Clacton proved a tough BRC baptism for Andy Davies, who was gaining confidence with every stage on his debut in the Fiesta. Along with co-driver Rob Fagg. Davies was climbing the leaderboard when a heavy crash put them out of the rally on the spot. Whilst the Ford won't be ready for the Jim Clark, the team are hoping to utilise another steed for the event.

In contrast to Clacton, the Jim Clark Rally offers vastly longer stages and Friday night kicks off with two runs across the infamous Longformacus test. At around twelve miles, and in darkness for the second pass, it could well shape the rally. Saturday sees seven more stages for the BRC contenders with classics such as Westruther and Eccles bringing an air of nostalgia to the event. The Jim Clark Rally was often regarded as a flagship event in the BRC calendar, and we can be sure that it won't disappoint.

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23rd May, 2022

Rovanperä snatches Portuguese Victory

Kalle Rovanperä claimed his third FIA World Rally Championship victory in Portugal, opening a commanding lead in the points standings. The Finn trailed long-time leader and Toyota GR Yaris team-mate Elfyn Evans for the first two days at Vodafone Rally de Portugal before taking the lead on Saturday evening and extending a slender advantage on the short final leg to win by 15.2sec. Rovanperä's triumph on the first gravel fixture of the season followed success on Sweden's snow and ice and Croatia's asphalt. He holds a 46-point championship advantage after four of 13 rounds.

On Friday's opening day Rovanperä started first on the road and cleaned the sandy stages to leave more grip for those following, but the 21-year-old avoided trouble on the punishing rock-strewn roads before intelligently making his move on Evans. Maximum bonus points for winning the final Wolf Power Stage over the legendary Fafe speed test was the icing on the cake for the young Finn who drove with relentless consistency.

Second was the best result of the season for Evans, who won six of the 21 speed tests compared to Rovanperä's eight and marked a return to form for the man who has finished championship runner-up for the last two seasons after a torrid start to this year's championship.

Toyota Gazoo Racing was on course to lockout the podium with Takamoto Katsuta holding third ahead of the final stage. But a fast-closing Dani Sordo, making his first appearance of the season in a Hyundai i20 N, moved ahead in the final kilometres by 2.1sec. His teammate Thierry Neuville fell away from the victory fight on Friday when a front wheel fell off his i20 N on a liaison section. He drove the final two stages with just two-wheel drive and plunged from second to seventh, but recovered to take fifth, 18.4sec behind Katsuta.

Brake problems cost Craig Breen sixth. The Irishman conceded two places on the final day in his M-Sport Ford Puma, allowing Ott Tänak into sixth in an i20. The Estonian steadily gained ground after two Friday punctures ended his challenge. Pierre-Louis Loubet steered his Puma into seventh, despite similar problems to Breen. Adrien Fourmaux and last-gasp WRC2 winner Yohan Rossel completed the leaderboard. Former multi WRC champions Sebastiens' Loeb and Ogier both fell by the wayside early in the rally, Loeb uncharacteristically against an unyielding wall just after starting an early stage after a storming start.

Competitors face more hot weather and rough roads as the WRC moves to the Mediterranean island of Sardinia next month for Rally Italia Sardegna based in Alghero on 2 - 5 June.

22nd May, 2022

Elfyn Evans leads Vodaphone Rally Portugal

Elfyn Evans currently leads Vodaphone Rally Portugal by 10 seconds from team mate Kalle Rovanpera, with Takamoto Katsuta in third, making it three Toyotas' at the head of the field going into the final day. Dani Sordo is fourth and Thierry Neuville fifth to give Hyundai two cars in the top six.

21st May, 2022

M-Sport Puma for Loeb in Portugal

M-Sport Ford World Rally Team is preparing for a full-scale attack on the gravel roads of Rally de Portugal this week as 2022 Rallye Monte Carlo winner and nine-time world champion, Sebastien Loeb, returns to complete a historic line-up of five Ford Puma Hybrid Rally1 cars.

The highly anticipated event marks the 50th anniversary celebrations of the FIA World Rally Championship; Rally de Portugal featured in the championship's inaugural season and this year's event will celebrate half a century of history, with historic cars and figures making appearances over the course of the weekend.

In tandem with the anniversary celebrations in Porto, M-Sport Ford continues to add to the history books with the first five-car entry in WRC's new hybrid Rally1 era. Despite Portugal's reputation for being particularly rough and physically demanding for both crews and cars alike, the M-Sport team has delivered strong performances on the event over the years with an outright event victory in 2017 and a double podium the following year.

Loeb's return to the team brings more Rally de Portugal experience with him, including two overall victories and a further two podium finishes since his first outing on the event in 2007. The Frenchman will be joined by co-driver Isabelle Galmiche, who guided Loeb to a record-setting 80th victory on Rallye Monte-Carlo in January.

The event hosts some of rallying's most famous stages, including the iconic Lousada super special stage on Friday and Sunday's Fafe power stage, which features one of WRC's most iconic jumps within the 11km final stage. The FIA Junior WRC Championship also heads into its third round in Portugal, where seven of M-Sport Poland's entry-level Ford Fiesta Rally3 cars go head-to-head again in one of the feeder category's closest seasons yet.

17th May, 2022

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