Pearson conquers the Cambrian whilst White seals the Junior BRC title

Garry Pearson finally secured a Motorsport UK British Rally Championship victory at the weekend, by taking second overall at the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally [28 October], the final round of the 2023 season.
The Duns driver and co-driver Hannah McKillop pushed eventual rally winner Tom Cave throughout each of the event’s five tests, to take their Pirelli-shod Volkswagen Polo GTi to Pearson’s maiden BRC victory and more importantly, sealing second place in the championship behind title holder Adrien Fourmaux.
The Llandudno-based event once again offered up some of the best stages in the world, courtesy of the North Wales forests which have seen World Rally Championship title fights played out over the decades. Its unforgiving and technical nature, coupled with tricky and damp conditions in tests such as Cloc and Brenig, would mean there was little margin for error.
Whilst Fourmaux had wrapped up the title in Yorkshire, Pearson still had the pressure of requiring a finish to secure second in the championship and that alone was a big ask in the brutal and world-renowned forests tests.
But Pearson’s season has gone from strength to strength and the Scot was one only a handful of drivers to emerge from the morning loop of stages with no real stories to tell. His relaxed and calm approach throughout the afternoon, plus a scratch time over the final stage, ensured he could claim his first BRC win of his career.
“It’s been a long year to get to this point, but I`m delighted to get the job done,” said a relieved Pearson.
The return of Ollie Mellors and the Proton Iriz Rally2 to the BRC proved to be a fruitful one, taking second spot, although not taking points away from the remaining championship contenders this weekend.
However, a finish was looking unlikely at the halfway point, as the Michelin-backed Iriz pulled into the stop line of the Brenig test with the car driving at unfavourable angles. That was courtesy of a heavy impact with a log pile and Mellors admitted to being surprised that the car was still driveable after the hit on the rear corner.
But the team were able to repair the issue back in service, ensuring Mellors and co-driver Ian Windress could secure their best BRC finish to date.
Steve Waugh and Mark Broadbent had already sealed the BRC4 championship at the Trackrod but were eager to gain experience of the North Wales stages ahead of next season and brought their Fiesta R2T home for yet another solid finish.
Another to be heading to the Cambrian with a championship under their belt was Alan Carmichael in his Hyundai i20, taking back-to-back National Rally Titles thanks to his Yorkshire win. But co-driver Claire Williams wasn’t assured of the same crown so the pairing headed for Wales to ensure they Williams could seal the deal, and they duly did, handing her the championship with a solid run.
With many titles already decided, the focus for the weekend was undoubtedly on the Junior British Rally Championship contenders, and for good reason. It was a head-to-head fight between Kyle White and Kyle McBride, with White just needing a finish to claim the crown that he had been trying to secure since 2021.
But there was drama early on for White, his Peugeot 208 Rally4 suffering a boost issue on the very first stage, allowing McBride to head off into the distance. However, with just a finish required, White and co-driver Sean Topping nursed the Peugeot back to service where an ECU reset was carried out, ensuring the car was back to full health for the afternoon loop.
McBride’s pace was impressive, but White returned a mature drive over the remaining tests, doing all he needed to do to take the Junior BRC title back to Northern Ireland.
“I can’t really put it into words at the moment” said an emotional White, “it might just make me cry”.
“It’s been an incredible three years in the Junior BRC, the pace has been insane all year, especially with the likes of Max [McRae], Kyle [McBride] and all the other guys coming over, it’s been great to see. But, wow, I really can’t believe it.”
“We are just a wee four-man team from Northern Ireland and to come here and do this, well it’s just extra special.”
McBride and Liam McIntyre knew it would be a long shot, but the Fiesta Rally4 crew never gave up and took away their second-ever Junior BRC win, a small consolation from the weekend and an impressive maiden season in the series.
All around the duel for the Junior title, a host of young chargers were bidding for bragging rights in Wales, and it would be Aoife Raftery who stole the limelight on the opening stage of the rally, leading the Junior BRC contingent in her Fiesta Rally4.
With Damien Connolly alongside, they would set the benchmark in the Elsi test, although rear brake issues saw them fall away over the remainder of the event and a subsequent post-event penalty saw them drop out of third at the finish.
With McBride now taking the reigns till the finish, it would be Junior BRC newcomers Keelan Grogan and Ayrton Sherlock who would be their nearest challengers in their Peugeot 208 Rally4. Their first trip to the UK proved fruitful and although electing not to score points and interfere with the title race, second place would be an impressive debut result.
With the 2023 season complete, the BRC award winners will have the opportunity to collect their trophies at a presentation at the Autosport International Show in January [11-14 January 2024].
Attentions now turn to next season and the reinvigoration of the series, as Probite steps forward as title sponsor and an exciting all-new six-round calendar heralds a new look to the championship.
More information on the championship will be unveiled in the coming weeks.

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