First run in 1958, the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship has been the making of many a rally legend with five BRC Champions going on to become World Rally Champions. It has been the series that has launched careers, seen manufacturer campaigns delivered and entertained millions of rally fans at home and abroad.
After a year's sabbatical, the 2016 MSA British Rally Championship returned with a bang on events across the British Isles. Britain's premier rallying series took in asphalt special stages and gravel tests on seven rallies in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, with the championship curtain-call on the legendary Isle of Man. Timed to the tenth-of-a-second, the iconic British stages provide the perfect backdrop for the best drivers in the best cars to go head-to-head for overall supremacy.
Open to all rally cars that conform to FIA homologation regulations, the very latest rally machines tackle the special stages that make up each round. There is also a National Rally Cup for cars that have an MSA rally log book competing on the same course.
The much-anticipated 2017 championship will get underway in March on the Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally, Jedburgh in the Scottish Borders. A short, compact route offers a real challenge for the season-opener, encompassing classic stages including Yair, Elibank and Cardrona. 2016 started with the Mid Wales Stages, Newtown and an added an extra ingredient, with snow blanketing the forest tracks and making conditions and tyre choices incredibly tricky on the two-day event. 2016 BRC Champion Elfyn Evans claimed it was the BRC's answer to the Monte Carlo Rally.
The series heads to England for round two, the Pirelli Carlisle Rally. This all-gravel event is not for the faint-hearted as crews tackle the famous Kielder Forest, the largest forestry complex in the UK. The roads are fast, narrow and have huge ditches on either side to catch out the unwary.
Heading north of Hadrian's Wall, the BRC crews next take on the single, fast and furious sprint across the gravel roads of the Scottish borders. The RSAC Scottish Rally heads out to the forest complexes around Dumfries – home to 2011 BRC Champion David Bogie. There is no time to feed yourself in on this demanding event – those quickest out of the blocks will reap the rewards come the end of the contest.
The BRC's newest addition is in keeping with the series' international pedigree, with round four set to entertain overseas audiences with a visit to the legendary Ypres Rally in June. Britain's best will go toe-to-toe with the finest crews in Europe on the demanding asphalt roads of northern Belgium.
The second visit to Wales will see the unique challenge of the Nicky Grist Stages. The only mixed-surface event of the year starts on the gravel, with classic speed tests including Crychan, Halfway and Route 60. A two-and-a-half-hour service at the end of day one to change the cars over to Tarmac spec is followed by a day-long rollercoaster ride over the demanding Epynt Ranges. Favouring the brave, time can be gained by those able to adapt quickly to the ribbon of Tarmac, which floats across the land.
With the remainder of the season running on the sealed-surface, from Wales the championship travels across the Irish Sea to the Ulster Rally. The famously bumpy, unforgiving Irish lanes offer two days of rallying, with late running on the Friday before a full day of competition the next day. BRC crews will go up against their Irish Championship counterparts to see who is best on the asphalt.
The championship curtain-call will once again visit the picturesque Isle of Man for three days of titanic Tarmac action. The Manx lanes have it all – a spectacular head-to-head spectator test opens proceedings before a succession of gruelling night stages on the opening evening. Tight-and-twisty sections followed by sweeping open roads will play host to the final two days, before the Ceremonial Finish outside the famous TT Grandstand. The 2017 event will be split into two legs with two sets of points on offer, meaning the 2017 Champion could well be crowned on the very final stage of the final event of the season.
It's going to be another epic adventure. Will you take up the challenge?
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