THE Probite Motorsport UK British Rally Championship roars back into life this weekend [22/23 March] with a bumper entry list for the Legend Fires North West Stages, marking a thrilling return for the reinvigorated series.

The opening round of the season has attracted a sensational lineup of top-flight crews, with former British champions, battling European and World title holders for glory at the first of seven action-packed rounds in 2024. Each bidding to add their name to a prestigious roll of honour that includes legends of the sport such as Ari Vatanen, Roger Clark, Hannu Mikkola, Colin McRae and Richard Burns.

A recently announced enhanced media package for the UK’s premier rally championship will include a dedicated one-hour highlights show on ITV4 and availability on the accompanying online catch-up service ITVX during the season, giving unrivalled visibility across the UK and Republic of Ireland to drivers, events, and partners.

The revitalised championship has seen an unprecedented level of registrations for the season ahead with the series top category featuring a host of BRC1 rivals in Rally2 four-wheel-drive machinery set to do battle at the front of the field. They are joined by the Junior BRC category which will showcase the talents of progressive youngsters in Rally4 specification two-wheel-drive cars. Support classes are also bolstered this year, with BRC4 and BRC3 well received, each vying for a British title marker.

Osian Pryce and his best friend Rhodri Evans who will be co-driving him on the weekend's opening round of the British Rally Championship the North West Stages
Osian Pryce and his best friend Rhodri Evans who will be co-driving him on the weekend's opening round of the British Rally Championship the North West Stages (Gary Jones)

Meanwhile, the Open Title and National Rally Title offer the challenge of longer top-drawer rallies, plus recce for non-homologated vehicles, each battling it out for a title of their own.

The Legend Fires North West Stages is a new event on the BRC roster and offers a largely unknown prospect for contenders to bag a confidence-boosting start to the season. Its ten stages on the closed roads surrounding its Garstang rally base offer a dynamic mix of tight country lanes and fast and flowing moorland roads. Bravery and commitment will need to be deployed to eke out an early advantage as crews lock horns for almost sixty competitive miles across the Lancashire roads.

The Classes: BRC1

It’s 2019 FIA European Rally Champion Chris Ingram and co-driver Alex Kihurani who will lead the teams over the start ramp in their Volkswagen Polo GTi. The Manchester-born contender won the event last year and returns to defend his number one seed. Having spent a number of years in the ultra-competitive World Rally Championship, he will likely be the marker for many to follow.

But there is an impressive field of top-line crews eager to stand on the top step of the round one podium, and four-time BRC champion Keith Cronin [Ford Fiesta Rally2] makes a bid to equal Jimmy McRae’s five titles and has Mikie Galvin on the notes, whilst 2022 champion Osian Pryce also returns to the fold, this time in a Fiesta Rally2 and Rhodri Evans in the co-driver’s seat.

Newcastle Emlyn's James Williams had to retire from the Jim Clark Rally when well place in third place 2023
(James Williams Rallying)

Welshman Meirion Evans makes a comeback to the series after concentrating on the Irish Championship and has Jonathan Jackson alongside. Rounding out the breathtaking top five, are 2021 Junior British Champions and reigning FIA Junior World Rally Champions William Creighton and Liam Regan, leading the M-Sport charge in the process. The pairing will use the BRC as additional seat time for their WRC2 campaign and head up a three-car M-Sport squad.

The McRae name returns to the series in more ways than one this season, as Max – son of 1995 BRC champion Alister pilots an M-Sport Fiesta Rally2 with co-driver Cameron Fair. Cousin Hollie McRae – daughter of rally legend Colin - will also be on the BRC tour as she becomes one of the presenters for the TV highlights show. Last year’s BRC runner-up Garry Pearson joins McRae and Creighton in the M-Sport team, with Daniel Barritt alongside.

James Williams aims for a full assault on the series this season after taking his first BRC win at Rali Ceredigion last year, this time with new co-driver Ross Whittock. Callum Black signs up for BRC1 in his Fiesta Rally2 with Jack Morton, whilst Ollie Mellors and Ian Windress bring further variety to the class with their Proton Iriz.

Junior British Rally Championship, BRC3 and BRC4

Fighting for the coveted title and the chance to secure free entries to the 2025 British Rally Championship events; a package worth over £6,000, the Junior BRC provides the ultimate proving ground for young drivers under 27 years of age.

With Stellantis Motorsport Rally Cup contenders set to bolster the series at round two, it’s Robert Proudlock and co-driver Steven Brown who lead the charge in their Peugeot 208 Rally4. Making the switch from older R2 machinery to the latest specification sees the rapid young Scot tackle the Junior BRC for the first time.

Chasing him down will be Casey Jay Coleman and Lorcan Moore who are no strangers to the series after tackling last year's championship in a Fiesta. They return equipped with a Peugeot 208 and will be aiming to add to their 2023 Ypres Rally win. They will be playing their bonus-point inducing Joker, offering up to five bonus points per round.  Kalum Graffin will contest his first multi-venue event in the UK and at just 17 years old, is one of the youngest in the series. With co-driver Richard Crozier, Graffin has added the Junior BRC title to his plans this season as well as the Stellantis Cup.

The BRC3 category gains momentum in 2024, with sealed surface expert William Hill throwing his hat into the ring in his Fiesta Rally3 and Peredur Wyn Davies in the co-driver seat. He will be chased by last year's BRC4 champion Stephen Waugh who steps up into four-wheel-drive and a Fiesta Rally3, and is joined by Adam Westerby.

BRC4 features the same class as the Junior BRC, but outside of the age cut-off and is spearheaded by James Lightfoot and Ula Budzynska in their Ford Fiesta R2T. Open Rally Title

The home for Rally2 and R5 cars running outside of their homologation, the new Open Rally Title category will see event sponsor John Stone lead the way in his Volkswagen Polo GTi with Laura Marshall in the co-driver's seat. John Rintoul and Ross Hynd bring their Fiesta to the category, as will fellow Scot and three-time National champion John Morrison, with Max Freeman alongside. Roger and Tommi Henderson make the trip from Cornwall in their Fiesta Rally2. National Rally Title

A hotbed of action is expected in the revised National Rally Title, ensuring the more powerful machinery is separated from the other classes, offering reduced registration fees and the bonus of recce. This brings a wealth of variety including the Darrian T90 GTR of Wayne Jones and Dafydd Evans, and the stunning Nissan Sunny F2 of Chris Butcher and Jonathan Hawkins.

The Ginetta G40 of Nick Heard and Oliver Mathinson will be a unique sight, whilst William Mains makes a welcome comeback in his Vauxhall Nova with Tomos Whittle. Stephen Cotton and Michael Birchall will pilot a Subaru Impreza, with Nathan Bolton and Phil Kenny opting for a Mitsubishi EvoIX.

2024 Probite British Rally Championship calendar

Round 1 – Legend Fires North West Stages – Garstang – 22/23 March

Round 2 – Rallynuts Severn Valley Stages – Builth Wells – 13 April

Round 3 – Beatson’s Building Supplies Jim Clark Rally – Duns – 24/25 May

Round 4 – Voyonic Grampian Forest Rally – Banchory – 9/10 August

Round 5 – JDS Machinery Rali Ceredigion – Aberystwyth – 30 August/1 September

Round 6 – Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally – Llandudno – 26 October