Wilson takes British Rally Championship gold at the Grampian
Matthew Wilson stormed to his first victory in the Motorsport UK British Rally Championship since 2005, as he took an impressive win at the third round of the 2021 series, the Grampian Forest Stages (14 August).
The M-Sport Chief Test Driver, along with co-driver Elliott Edmondson took three stage wins in their Pirelli-shod M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally2 and after opening up an early advantage on the first stage of the day, would never relinquish the lead to win by a comfortable 20 seconds from the Volkswagen Polo GTi crew of Osian Pryce and Noel O`Sullivan. Rhys Yates wrestled with pop-off valve issues in his Michelin-backed Fiesta Rally2 to finish 18 seconds shy of Pryce to round out the top three with James Morgan calling the notes.
The Banchory based event offered some of the finest stages in Scotland with this year’s edition marking the first time Britain’s premier rally championship has headed to the area in almost 30 years.
A thrilling mix of high-speed and flowing gravel tests in the Durris, Fetteresso and Drumtochty forests were an unknown quantity for the BRC contenders and served as an interesting leveller for the stellar BRC entry who headed to Banchory for 44 miles of competitive action over six stages.
Wilson would take the early initiative over the opening 6-mile Durris test, grabbing a three second lead over Pryce with Melvyn Evans Motorsport team mates and championship leaders Matt Edwards and Darren Garrod in third. Edwards was fresh from round-two victory and would be eager to maintain his hold over the series lead but would be forced to settle for third after the opening loop of the day.
The third test saw Edwards respond to Wilson’s stronghold, instantly clawing back five seconds to vault Pryce into second. Joint fastest on stage four with Wilson was achieved with a nagging but small misfire in the Polo which sadly re-appeared in the penultimate stage and Edwards was forced to park up with his first non-score of the season.
With Edwards disposed of and Pryce over 20 seconds adrift, Wilson was able to manage his gap to the chasing pack to secure an impressive BRC win and his first in 16 years after taking the 2005 Trackrod Rally Yorkshire spoils at 18 years old.
“We are really, really pleased with that result” said an elated Wilson.
“I enjoyed it all to be honest. It's a shame we didn't have the fight with Matt [Edwards] in the last two stages but we just needed to keep up the good rhythm and not make any mistakes.”
“With the pace of the BRC you certainly have no time to bed yourself into these stages, you've really just got to go for it and that’s what we did. It’s a great rally and the stages are super up here but it’s also a level playing field as not many have been here before. I’m really chuffed.”
Pryce had arguably been the most consistent performer of the BRC1 top-flight heading into the Grampian and second place was his best result of the season so far. His consistency now sees him just one point shy of the leader heading into round four.
The battle behind Pryce would provide a final stage thriller between Yates and BRC returnee Keith Cronin. Piloting a Hankook-backed Ford Fiesta Rally2, Cronin would increase his pace throughout the day to sit fourth after the second loop. Heading into the final stage, Cronin and co-driver Mikie Galvin would be tied with Yates for third but the six mile sweeping Durris stage saw Yates nip the Irishman to the rostrum spot by just one second.
After Yates’ opening round podium which utilised additional Joker points, his second top three score of the season sees him jump into the lead of the championship as the series enjoys one more round on gravel before switching to the asphalt of the Beatson’s Mull Rally in October.
With Cronin a happy fourth, Josh Moffett was another to show an impressive turn of pace as he got used to the unique Kincardineshire surface. Languishing in seventh after the opener, Moffett and co-driver Andy Hayes dragged their Hyundai i20 up the leaderboard to fifth by the close of play.
Cathan McCourt and Brian Hoy made a welcome return to the BRC in Scotland and brought a brand-new Fiesta Rally2 to the event. Their maiden outing in the car was a good one, scooping sixth ahead of round one winners Sam Moffett and Keith Moriarty in similar machinery down in seventh spot.
The Motorsport UK National Rally Title battle would also see a new winner as Garry Pearson and Niall Burns made the switch to a Skoda Fabia for the rapid Scottish tests a worthy choice to take their maiden category victory. With times good enough for fifth overall without a pre-event recce, the Duns driver won with a 40 cushion of Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson’s Ford Fiesta WRC. Elliott Payne and Patrick Walsh couldn’t quite find their Nicky Grist Stages pace to round out the top three in their Ford Fiesta.
In the hotly contested Junior British Rally Championship, it would be Eamonn Kelly and Conor Mohan who sealed the win with a spirited effort on only their fourth ever gravel rally. Kelly found the tough Scottish stages a great leveller and despite not being able to match the pace of Ruari Bell and Gareth Parry who lead for much of the rally before an electrical issue forced them out, a consistent drive saw them take an impressive victory over David Kelly and Dean O`Sullivan. Brian Brady and Eamonn Creedon rounded out the podium spots, all crews piloting the Ford Fiesta Rally4.
In the Academy Trophy, Johnnie Mulholland and Calum Maguire took the spoils in their Fiesta R2T after early leader Fraser Anderson was forced to retire with clutch issues.
The fourth round of the British Rally Championship sees a return to classic Yorkshire forest tests at Trackrod Rally Yorkshire in Filey at the end of September.