While the WRC was on a break this weekend, and we were all at home trying to recover from the heart attacks that Kris Meeke gave us in Mexico, there was plenty of regional rally action going on around the world. This weekend, we saw the season opener for the MSA British Rally Championship and the second round of the (Best Championship Title in Rallying) Clonakilty Black Pudding Irish Tarmac Championship. In addition, we got treated to seeing Sebastien Loeb back on a rally stage. He was competing on the Rallye de Haute Provence with his wife Severine as his co-driver. As if that wasn’t enough, the Spa Rally in Belgium featured a few of those fantastic screaming Porsche 911 GT3’s as well as a fleet of the usual R5 suspects. Last but not least, the Rally America Rally in the 100 Acre Wood featured a very unique entry that doesn’t often appear in the US. I spent some time this morning rounding up some videos of the action for you to enjoy!
British Rally Championship – Border Counties Rally:
In one sense, the BRC has been around forever, but in recent history, 2017 feels much like a sophomore season. After the disaster in 2014 and 2015 where the championship was cancelled, last year was the much publicized rebirth of the championship. There were teething problems, but for the most part, the BRC was able to build some valuable momentum in 2016. I was very curious to see if this could be maintained into 2017 with a new look schedule, and from the looks of things it certainly has! I know that many of us will miss the championship starting in its traditional location in Mid-Wales, but the Border Counties Rally looks like a solid event. It features some classic Scottish stages such as Yair and Cardona, as well as a night stage, and did it all in a compact, two day event. As far as the field itself, you’d be hard pressed to find a better looking group of R5 cars anywhere in the world! Congrats to Fredrik Ahlin for his win in that really cool Skoda Fabia R5.
Clonakilty Black Pudding Irish Tarmac Championship – West Cork Rally:
It may take you an entire breath to get through saying the name of the championship, but the Irish Tarmac Championship still features some of the best rallying in the world. It’s one of the few places were you can see WRC cars, both older and more recent, going head to head against the latest R5 machinery. The West Cork Rally features those slippery Irish lanes that we have come to love, but unlike other rallies in Ireland, there are more flowing and smooth sections as well. You can see from the on-board video below the fantastic variety that can be found on the West Cork stages. The only disappointment with this rally was that it was held on a date conflicting with the BRC. With two championships that share so many entries throughout the year, I think that both the West Cork Rally and the Border Counties Rally suffered because of this unfortunate conflict. I would have loved to have seen a few of the British crews come over to the tarmac to give the Irish teams a run for their money! Despite this, it still looks like the West Cork Rally still featured a pretty strong entry list. Donagh Kelly won the rally in his Ford Focus WRC, but since he is not running an R5 car, he is not eligible for the championship. Josh Moffett took advantage of some late attrition suffered by teams around him to grab 2nd place and maximum championship points.
FFSA Rallye – Rallye de Haute Provence:
I’ll be honest and say that the FFSA doesn’t get much coverage on this website, but any time Sebastien Loeb is involved, we take notice! It was great to see Loeb back on a rally stage, and even better to see him in a screaming Peugeot 306 Maxi. If you ever needed proof that 2WD cars don’t have to be boring, here you go! Oh… and in case you were wondering, he beat a Fiesta WRC car by over 30 seconds so… yeah… he’s still got it!
Belgium – Spa Rally:
Let’s be honest, when most of us hear the word “Spa”, the next thing that we think of is Eau Rogue… right? Even though we might more readily associate the village of Spa with Formula 1, it hosts a pretty fantastic rally as well! Belgian rallying might not make the headlines very often, but even though we don’t hear about it, the Belgian rallying scene is thriving. Like every other regional championship, there are plenty of shiny new R5 cars, but there are also a nice group of Porsche 911 GT3’s which just look and sound fantastic on a rally stage. There is nothing quite like the sounds of rally cars echoing through the Ardennes Forest, so just sit back and let it soak in!
Rally America – Rally in the 100 Acre Wood:
Things aren’t great for us rally enthusiasts in America. After years of stagnation, our “premier” rally championship, Rally America, suffered a coup with the formation of the brand new American Rally Association (ARA). Time will tell who will survive this split, but for the moment, both championships are running simultaneously. Despite this drama, American rallies have always been known to feature some interesting entries. These can include modified pick-up trucks, a pseudo manufacturer supported Toyota Rav4, and now this. That’s right, it’s a MK2 Escort with a stock Ford Mustang engine under the hood (bonnet for my British friends). Check out this on-board footage of Seamus Burke behind the wheel of a very unique MK2 Escort. We don’t get to see these very often in America, so anytime one pops up, it’s a big treat!