August 21, 2023
The Modern Tyres Ulster Rally lived up to its billing as one of the most challenging tarmac events in the rally calendar, and the organisers promise of a refreshed Friday leg to intensify the challenge were delivered.
In the first year of a long-term environmental roadmap, the rally partnered with Carbon Positive Motorsport to provide carbon offsetting for competitors and all organisers event vehicles. This commitment to mitigate the event's carbon footprint, meant the event started knowing that 11,000kg of CO2e would be offset.
Of the 26 crew supporting the initiative, three Carbon Positive Motorsport ambassadors were also competing, including BRC contender Garry Pearson, who was competing on the event for the first time in 10 years.
As part of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship and British Rally Championship, the event brought not only technically challenging stages, but also difficult weather conditions.
Photo: Garry Pearson Rallying
It was BRC front runner Adrien Fourmaux who etched his name alongside an illustrious list of rallying legends, by taking a sensational victory and a maximum score in the fourth round of the Motorsport UK British Rally Championship.
Fourmaux stamped his authority on the leaderboard from the opening stage on Friday afternoon and was never headed, giving him and co-driver Alexandre Coria four wins on the bounce in the BRC and tightening their grip on the championship with three rounds remaining.
“It was really really nice to win here” said Fourmaux. “We know the stages here in Ireland are really difficult and the competition here is very high. That rain, it just kept coming and along with the Irish drivers here, they are really impressive. They are fast and the pace here was really high and actually, it was a big fight so I am really glad we won this one. It’s a good result for the championship and a lot of points so it is really positive.”
But it wasn’t a straightforward fight for the Ulster Rally win for the Frenchman, faced with biblical rain and heavy winds courtesy of Storm Betty which graced much of Northern Ireland on Friday afternoon. The already tricky lanes around the Newry rally base turned into torrents of running water, but his early lead enabled him to consolidate the position when the weather deteriorated in the fading light of Friday night.
Saturday’s weather was mixed, but slightly more predictable and once again it was Fourmaux who returned to the podium in Newry with a BRC maximum score and a sizeable advantage in the standings. But destined to miss the following round and double points on offer at the final encounter of 2023, the championship is far from a done deal.
Recognising that fact was Carbon Positive Motorsport ambassador Garry Pearson, who elected to play his bonus point-inducing joker in Ulster. Driving his Hankook-backed Volkswagen Polo GTi, Pearson and co-driver Daniel Barritt couldn’t find the confidence in the torrential rain and were in a lowly 15th overall after the opening Friday loop.
However, their confidence grew as the weather improved, and the sensible approach netted him second BRC contender home and 8th overall, his best championship result to date, and a great reward for their new sponsor CEMCOR.
Photo: Garry Pearson Rallying
Callum Devine and Noel O’Sullivan were the first of the Irish Tarmac Rally Championship contenders home, and their second place clinched their maiden Irish Tarmac Rally Championship title.
“It was a different rally for us this time around,” said Devine. “We were looking after the car and trying to manage the Championship rather than trying to go for the outright win and to be honest that is not something that is easy to do as we found out but the Tarmac title makes it worthwhile.”
A late turn of speed took Jonathan Greer – this year’s Northern Ireland Rally champion – past the Ford Fiesta Rally2 of Cathan McCourt on the penultimate stage and the Citroen C3 Rally2 driver consolidated the place to finish just 3.2 seconds behind Devine’s Polo.
There was also a late change of positions from fifth to seventh, as outgoing Tarmac champion Josh Moffett slipped two spots on the last test to the benefit of Carbon Positive Motorsport Ambassador Jason Mitchell. Together with co-driver Paddy McCrudden, the pair had the highest improvement of the top 10 finishers on seeding, starting at car 12, and finishing the rally in a fantastic 5th place overall. Not satisfied with one event over the weekend, the crew quickly converted the car to forest specification to head off to a forest event in Cork to complete a busy weekend for the team.
Photo: Mark McCullagh
The battle in the Junior BRC was less than clear-cut with three different drivers taking the top slot on the leaderboard during the weekend. Lloyd had opened up a five-second advantage over Carbon Positive Motorsport Ambassador Kyle White during the opening loop, but sadly a power issue in his 208 sent him back to service early. Enter Kyle McBride and a scorching time over the third stage, 17 seconds faster than anyone else, put him into the overnight halt with a healthy lead.
Making his return to the hotly contested category was Ioan Lloyd, with Sion Williams in their Peugeot 208 Rally4. Lloyd opened up a five-second advantage over Carbon Positive Motorsport ambassador, Kyle White during the opening loop. However, a power issue in his 208 sent him back to service early. Enter Kyle McBride into the equation and a scorching time over the third test 17 seconds faster than anyone else put him into the overnight halt with a healthy lead.
But it wasn’t long before that lead evaporated, as White and co-driver Sean Topping went on a charge, clawing back time with each stage to recover from a 50 second time loss in the first leg. The crew went on to win the RC4 class after a thrilling battle with Kyle McBride, with less than a minute separating the them after 1 hour and 46 mins of competitive driving, White taking a valuable Junior BRC win on home soil. The third victory of the season in the Junior BRC category led to the now familiar bottle of bubbly down the back of his race suit.
“I`'ll be honest, my first thought is with my wife who could well be giving birth around now so thank you to her for being so patient,” said White. “Thanks to the team after last night’s disaster, we found some luck today. To bring home more points for the championship is important and it’s always nice to win on your home rally.”
Photo: Kyle White Rallying
McBride and Liam McIntyre secured second Junior BRC spot yet again in their Ford Fiesta Rally4, the fourth time in 2023, with Ypres Rally Junior winners Casey Jay Coleman and Lorcan Moore grabbing third after a rally to forget.
The fifth BRC round takes place in just two weeks as the undulating and rapid moorland roads of the JDS Machinery Rali Ceredigion in Wales host the final asphalt encounter of the year before the series shifts back onto gravel to close out the season.
Modern Tyres Ulster Rally: Top Ten Results Overall
1. Adrien Fourmaux / Alexandre Coria Ford Fiesta Rally2 1:35:30.9
2. Callum Devine / Noel O'Sullivan Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 +47.7
3. Jonny Greer / Niall Burns Citroën C3 Rally2 +50.9
4. Cathan McCourt / Dean O'Sullivan Ford Fiesta Rally2 +57.0
5. Jason Mitchell / Patrick McCrudden Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 +2:46.6
6. Robert Barrable Citroën C3 Rally2 +2:50.7
7. Josh Moffett / Andy Hayes Hyundai i20 N Rally2 +2:52.8
8. Garry Pearson / Daniel Barritt Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 +4:57.5
9. Neil Roskell / Rob Fagg Ford Fiesta Rally2 +7:02.2
10. Jason Black / Karl Egan Toyota Starlet KP60 +8:04.1
For results, visit ewrc.com
For more information about the Modern Tyres Ulster Rally visit www.ulsterrally.com.
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