BRC 2021 - Round One To Moffett

After an enforced 18-month break, the 2021 British Rally Championship restarted with a bang in Cheshire when Irishman Sam Moffett won the opening round on Bank Holiday Monday 31 May, at the Neil Howard Stages. Throughout the day Moffett and co-driver Keith Moriarty had steadily moved their Ford Fiesta Rally2 up the leader board to secure their maiden BRC victory by a slender one-second margin over Rhys Yates/James Morgan, who equaled their best BRC result. All day the leaders were hounded by a gaggle of rapid British Championship crews with Osian Pryce/Noel O'Sullivan taking their Volkswagen Polo to the final podium spot.

Despite being in fifth place on the opening stage and having no competitive experience in the Pirelli-shod Fiesta Rally2, Moffett's pace increased across the event's eight stages to secure second after the sixth timed run. A solid run on the seventh stage saw him take the lead, holding off Yates' fastest final stage charge to secure the win by just one second.

The final result was not clear-cut however, as the lead changed hands several times over the course of the 56-mile event. Second place man Yates would lead after SS6, only to lose it on the seventh to eventually take runner-up spot on his BRC return in the Michelin-backed Fiesta. Volkswagen Polo debutant Pryce had a strong start to his day in second, before dropping out of the podium positions mid-point through but making it back into third. Series newcomers, Frank Bird/Jack Morton, had set a blistering pace to lead much of the event, before being excluded on a technical infringement.

The rally saw almost 45 British Rally Championship contenders take the start and the competition was first-class throughout the leaderboard and a sizeable crowd witnessed the action around Oulton Park's imaginative rally layout over the course of the day. Twice BRC champion Matt Edwards featuring strongly throughout but a ten-second penalty saw the Volkswagen Polo ace eventually finish fourth with Darren Garrod in the co-driver's seat.

Desi Henry/Dale Furniss opened their BRC account with an impressive fifth place in their Hyundai i20 as Seb Perez/Gary McElhinney pulled themselves back from outside the top ten, to take sixth in their M-Sport Fiesta Rally2. The Junior BRC battle was a little more straightforward but still provided plenty of action for the fans to enjoy. Hunting down the impressive FIA World Rally Championship prize drive opportunity for the series victor was Junior WRC contenders William Creighton/Liam Regan.

The National Rally Champion title-fight fielded another impressive entry, with Garry Jennings/Rory Kennedy making a BRC return on fine form in a right-hand-drive Ford Fiesta, leading the way until a puncture on SS6 put paid to a perfect season start. Victory went to Thomas Preston/Carl Williamson in the fire-breathing Ford Fiesta WRC, with Charles Payne/Aled Edwards and Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson taking second and third respectively in similar machines.

Next, the series switches to gravel and the daunting Welsh forest stages for the Nicky Grist Stages in July and it looks like an open and competitive 2021 championship with at least 6 crews capable of taking the title - speed and consistency will be the key.
Motorsport UK British Rally Championship Points After Round 1
1st. Sam Moffett 25 / Keith Moriarty 25
2nd. Rhys Yates 22J / James Morgan 18
3rd. Osian Pryce 15 / Noel O'Sullivan 15
4th. Matt Edwards 12 / Darren Garrod 12
5th. Desi Henry 10 / Dale Furniss 10
6th. Seb Perez 9J / Gary McElhinney 8
7th. Josh Moffett 6 / Andy Hayes 6
8th. Oliver Mellors 4 / Max Freeman 4
9th. Joseph McGonigle 2 / Ciaran Geaney 2
10th. James Wilson 1 / Arthur Kierans 1

5th June, 2021