14 Jan Brands Hatch Preview
It’s a new year and new opportunities to succeed in the 2021/22 Motorsport News Circuit Rally Championship start with the fourth visit of the season, as The MGJ Engineering Brands Hatch Winter Stages is next on the calendar.
Corners such as Paddock Hill Bend, Druids, Graham Hill Bend all rsonate with motorsport fans, and they will be on the agenda for competitors in Round Four and in multiple directions, which make for a spectacular sight for rally fans whenever the series arrives in Kent in the New Year.
The championship is already gathering momentum after three visits, two of those won by the in-form Frank Bird and Jack Morton in their new Ford Fiesta R2. The pair continue to rack up the rally wins and Bird Jnr will be in high spirits to repeat his dominance from two years ago when he won the very same event in Kent in its last appearance on the calendar. High-flying performances at Oulton and Donington Park this winter have shown they will be the pairing to beat, both playing catch-up from their Cadwell absence. The number one seeds will still have to look over their shoulders at two rivals in particular that have been consistently in the mix.
First of those is championship leader, Neil Roskell. A superb and poignant victory in the forests of Cadwell gave the Ford Fiesta R5 driver a kick of optimism needed to know he can be a serious title contender in ‘22, and surviving a lairy driveshaft-hindered finish at Donington kept him an advantage over previous champion, Barry Morris.
Irishman Morris – one of three Darrian drivers on the entry list for Brands Hatch – will again be hopeful of a podium with a light chassis to flick through the technical sections in the paddock and rally school, sitting level on points but with one less victory than Roskell to his name, Bird a further 52 adrift but with 60 on offer for an overall triumph.
Darrell Taylor continues to gain mileage in the R2 model that has taken him to top-five finishes already this season, while Tony Robinson will hope for better luck after an early Donington retirement scuppered his Skoda’s outing. Josh Davey has also enjoyed a changed in fortune and reliabilty with his Darrian so – touch wood – a class C victory will be on his to-do list rather than getting to the final time check.
Non-championship entries likely to have their say in the top class include several returning faces such as Andy Scott and Steve Finch, with ‘Mr Rallycross’ Ollie O’Donovan partnering with familiar MSNCRC face Ashleigh Morris in their Hyundai R5 after a promising showing at Donington prior to Christmas.
Elsewhere through the classes it is a welcome return to the championship for the Escort Mk2 of Steve Tilburn, a frontrunner in his previous campaigns and always smooth behind the wheel of older machinery. Mazda are also well stocked on the driver front, with Paul Sheard again behind the wheel of a class B car but with former BTCC driver Shaun Hollamby joining the field in class C – both with an MX-5 apiece.
Class A has recently been dominated at Brands Hatch over the years by the Vauxhall Nova of Christopher Newton, and the orange pocket rocket returns after absences before Christmas to wow fans once again. Chasing will be the class title fight between the Nissan Micras of Kay Thompson and James Hardy; Alex Cannon (Fiesta) will defend his class B points lead, but Josh Payton (Escort) will want to put his Donington retirement to bed to get back at class C leader Phillip House (Escort).
With a capacity field of over 100 entries taking part across the afternoon into the evening, it’s expected to be an action-packed visit once agin. Tickets can be bought at Brands Hatch’s website.