by Geoff Mayes

As the British Rally Championship's 50th anniversary year draws to a close one has to admit that, whilst the action has been fast and furious out on the stages, the legal shenanigans have somewhat dampened the proceedings.

But with the International Rally of Yorkshire results now final everyone can get on with what they are good at, and that is fighting for every single second as the championship heads to Wales for the grand finale.

A recent MSA court hearing ruled in favour of Mitsubishi number one driver Guy Wilks after the Rally Yorkshire winner was initially disqualified for an apparent breach of homologation regulations. With the reigning champion now re-instated as the victor, Rally GB looks set to be a three way fight between a brace of former champions.

Brothers Mark and David Higgins currently top the leader-board with 78 points apiece but Mark is actually in pole position by virtue of his three victories on the tarmac rounds. A mere two points' further back is Guy Wilks, who has two wins to his credit.

Rally GB is unique because it counts as two separate rounds of the British Rally Championship. The 73 stage miles on Friday count as one rally, with Saturday and Sunday classified as a totally different event. This means that there are a total of 40 championship points up for grabs.

All three of the title contenders have taken steps to ensure that they have the best possible chance of taking victory.

Guy Wilks has been allocated a 'wild card' PWRC entry, which will allow him the opportunity to score points in the Production Car World Rally Championship. This also includes a favourable road position on the opening day.

In response, both Mark and David Higgins have taken over existing entries from teams already registered in the P-WRC. Pirelli Star Driver Darren Gass was also set to do the same, but will actually now miss the event having broke his hand at his home in Armagh on Sunday.

The credit crunch meanwhile has affected the premier rallying championship in the UK and this is no more apparent than by a quick glance at the entry list for the three-day rally. Only 15 BRC registered crews have entered the Swansea based event - and only a mere nine are in the R4 class and most of those purely because they are embroiled in title fights.

David Higgins' team-mate Hugh Evans returns to tackle his second WRC event as Team TQ.com bid to claim the teams' prize at their first attempt, while Gwyndaf Evans has been enlisted by Mitsubishi to assist Wilks in his attempt to retain both the drivers and teams titles.

Three of the registered drivers return after making one off appearances on the opening round and could potentially throw a spanner in the works for the title aspirants. Juho Hanninen, Patrik Flodin and Eyvind Brynildsen are all registered for British Rally Championship points and could affect the title race.

Further down the entry list there are four Citroen C2R2's entered and of these four, three of the drivers are in with a strong chance of the title.

In a winner takes all scenario, C2R2 junior champion Jason Pritchard goes head-to-head with series newcomers Matt Cotton and Andrew Hockridge. Whoever scores the most points this weekend will take the title - and could also be crowned class R2 champion too.

After Mark Gamble clinched the inaugural Suzuki Swift Cup on the International Rally of Yorkshire the only class R1 entrant is series runner up Gordon Nichol in his Swift, whilst BRC Challenge winner David Harrison makes use of his prize, a fully funded drive on Wales Rally GB in an MG ZR. Last year Luke Pinder made the most of his prize drive by winning the class - can Harrison do the same this year?

Whilst entries might be down, the quality remains, and one thing is for sure, the surviving drivers who return to Cardiff on Sunday will have tackled some of the finest rallying stages in Wales.

 

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