The Grampian Forest Rally - BRC round 3

Following a scintillating battle in the Welsh forests of last month's Nicky Grist Stages, the Motorsport UK British Rally Championship makes the trip to north east Scotland for round three of series, The Grampian Forest Rally (14 August). The Banchory based event boasts some of the finest stages in Scotland and marks the first time Britain's premier rally championship has headed to the area since the 1980s. Just 15 miles west of Aberdeen, the Grampian will provide crews with action-packed yet flowing gravel tests in the Durris, Fetteresso and Drumtochty forests.

None of the front-running BRC contenders have sampled the popular gravel stages before and the addition of a new event to the BRC roster is likely to unearth even more unpredictability across the BRC leaderboards. With different winners from the two events in all categories so far this season, another new name on the top step of the podium is very much a possibility.

The 2021 season has already provided intensely close competition with the asphalt of Oulton Park opening proceedings at the Neil Howard Stages providing the winning margin of just one second. The `Grist` marked the switch to gravel and was equally as thrilling, this time just a six second margin separated the leaders. With the Kincardineshire stages an unknown endeavour for the title protagonists, watch out for more fireworks than normal as crews battle for supremacy in Scotland.

Double BRC champion Matt Edwards will start the event as the number one seed, fresh from round two victory in his Pirelli-shod Volkswagen Polo GTi. With Darren Garrod on the notes, the all-Welsh pairing proved their adaptability to new machinery, taking their Melvyn Evans Motorsport run Polo to a convincing win over BRC returnee Tom Cave at the Nicky Grist. It was enough to vault him to the top of the points standings and Edwards believes the Grampian offers up a great opportunity to capitalize on his recent win.

M-Sport's Rhys Yates will be looking to get his season back on track after finishing outside of the podium spots in Wales. The Michelin-backed Ford Fiesta Rally2 ace couldn't quite match the Cave/Edwards battle on home turf but will be hoping that a clean sheet in Scotland will bring him back on form. Yates lies just three points shy of Edwards and a good score will take him and co-driver James Morgan, well into the thick of a title chase.

Two third-place finishes this season have given Osian Pryce a solid start to his year. Another newcomer to the Volkswagen Polo GTi, Pryce has matched team-mate Edwards on times on many occasions and could well stand at the top step of the podium this weekend. Irishman Noel O?Sullivan will guide him on the notes.

In a welcome return to the BRC, four-time title holder Keith Cronin has embarked on a gravel-led campaign in a Fiesta Rally2 and took seventh spot in Wales. Cronin and co-driver Mikie Galvin quickly got to grips with their new Hankook tyres and could well challenge the front runners as the Irishmen acclimatise to the pace of the BRC regulars.

Matthew Wilson was another name to throw his hat into the ring for the first time in many years at the Nicky Grist, driving an M-Sport Fiesta Rally2 for the Cockermouth squad. He will be joined by co-driver Elliott Edmondson in Scotland and will be aiming to help M-Sport close in on the 17-point gap to the Melvyn Evans Motorsport duo in the British Rally Championship for Teams race.

Rounding out the top ten, James Wilson has his sights set firmly on a hard reset of his season. Poor seeding and a time penalty at the Nicky Grist Stages means on paper his season has not been favourable. But with the experienced Arthur Kierans on the notes, the duo's times have impressed in their Hyundai i20 and it could well be a turning point for their championship.

Round one winners Sam Moffett and Keith Moriarty struggled to catch the Volkswagens in Wales, but could well fight back in Scotland and they will be eager to hold onto third in the championship in their Fiesta Rally2.

Cathan McCourt is a late registration with Brian Hoy in the co-drivers seat having recently contested selected rounds of the FIA European Rally Championship and also drives a Fiesta Rally2, whilst Seb Perez/Gary McElhinney and Joseph McGonigle/Ciaran Geaney both sit inside the top twenty in similar machinery.

9th August, 2021