BRC Licensing Limited [BRCL] has announced a series of measures today designed to extend the appeal of the 2004 British Junior Rally Championship.

They include extending it to BRC registered drivers who have not reached the age of 27 by 1 December 2004 and those driving any type of 1600cc car homologated in the Super 1600, A6 and N2 categories.

This year only drivers under the age of 25 on 1 December 2003, and driving cars in the Super 1600 class, were eligible.

With its international format and reconnaissance runs available to all crews, the 2004 British Rally Championship will continue to offer a true WRC feeder programme for aspiring junior drivers. The cost of competition has long been BRCL's main concern, and this relaxing of the rules will allow young drivers with less expensive 1600cc cars the opportunity to compete at the highest level.

The 2003 season has again proved that winning a championship is as much about consistent results as outright performance, and whilst Super 1600 cars are undoubtedly competitive they have lacked reliability. This should play into the hands of those who can only afford to run lower-specification cars, and means that Proton Compact, Vauxhall Corsa, Peugeot106 and Citroen Saxo kit cars, that haven't been seen so much in recent years, will all be eligible.

The Junior Championship will also provide extra opportunities for Peugeot 206 Cup car owners, and may even open up interest from MG and Ford who both have 1600cc variants in their model ranges.

"We're trying to make the category more inclusive," explains BRC manager Mark Taylor. "With the back to basics approach we are taking, simplifying the rules to FIA prescriptions, it would be great to see some of the older and less expensive homologated Group A and kit-variant cars return to the British Championship in the hands of young, up and coming drivers.

"There will be no additional weight penalties as we've had for the past two seasons. The cars will just have to run according to their FIA homologation papers and prescriptions, that's all."

BRCL is also currently putting together a support package for the 2004 series which may include a stand-alone television deal involving certain as yet un-named terrestrial and satellite television networks.

"We're really excited by the prospects for next season," continues Taylor. "I am talking to a number of interested parties, most of whom are from outside the UK. Teams from Finland, Norway, Sweden and Italy are all making the right noises, encouraged by this year's extended television distribution service that has markedly increased awareness abroad and generated much more interest throughout Europe."

The cost of competing in the Junior World Rally Championship [JWRC] has rocketed this year, and teams are being quoted around ?430,000 for a 2004 package. This, together with the current disarray caused by last-minute WRC rule changes, makes the BRC, with its own track record of producing future world champions, a viable alternative to the JWRC for those who want a high level of competition, good media coverage, all at considerably less expense.

"I'm now calling on all professional UK-based commercial motor sport companies with 1600cc products to offer and promote cost-effective packages," concludes Mark Taylor, "so that foreign teams no longer need to transport their equipment and personnel across the seas. Instead, drivers can fly in from around Europe and take part with the minimum of fuss."

More details about the 2004 BRC regulations, including the British Junior Championship, will be announced in a few weeks' time.



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