Ben Taylor began in motorsport as Press Officer at the Tyrrell F1 team in the late 1990s. He worked in the British Touring Car Championship with Nissan and the series itself before joining telecoms giant Orange as International Sponsorship Manager. A return to motorsport media relations led to close links with Silverstone, Honda and the Motorsports Association, the British governing body. He became its Development and Communications Director in 2011 and is now also Managing Director of its commercial subsidiary, International Motorsports Ltd. with responsibility for Wales Rally GB and the British Rally Championship.
I can’t quite believe that we’re just a few days away from the start of the new-look British Rally Championship. It’s been 20 months of hard work by a great team to put one of this country’s most historic and important championships back together after a bit of a, let’s say, hiatus.
The challenge that was presented to me was to do something that would rebuild the BRC back to what it needed to be. In hindsight I didn’t fully appreciate what was required and a mixture of naivety and exuberance caught me off guard initially, but it’s to the credit of everyone – the organising team, the events and the competitors – that we’re in this incredible position with huge numbers of registered crews and a great calendar.
Interestingly, British motorsport’s governing body, the MSA, put it out to tender in 2014 and it was decided that the things that were proposed wouldn’t work, so it was a case of starting from scratch.
We identified early on that the BRC needed to be more than just a proving ground for young drivers. We took a leaf out of the hugely successful British Touring Car Championship, in fact. They have multi-year deals, with drivers and teams. The momentum associated with your Jason Platos, Matt Neals and Gordon Sheddens is important.
As a result, we talked to a lot of people about what they wanted, with the competitor firmly in mind. We wanted to eliminate all the excuses drivers could come up with for not competing in the BRC and repackage it into something worthwhile. Remember that in the final season of its previous life, in 2014, it became a one-make series for the Citroen DS3 R3. It was competitive up at the front, but only among a small group of crews.
We’re very fortunate with our timing, as the R5 (detuned WRC) cars that we’re running in the top class are now the default customer four-wheel-drive option in FIA competitions so we’re very much on-message with that. We’re thrilled that we’ve got 23 R5 cars registered against a target in year one of at least 10. I’m surprised – and delighted – that so may drivers have binned elderly WRC and Group N machinery, and other non-homologated cars, and committed to the R5 route. We’ve got Ford Fiestas, Skoda Fabias, Citroen DS3s and Peugeot 208s represented, with Super 2000 (non-turbocharged, four-wheel-drive) cars from Ford, Skoda and Proton also in the mix.
We’re also very pleased with the uptake in the Junior class, for which we’ve already had 17 registrations. We’re not losing sight of the fact that the Junior class of the BRC really is a proving ground. And with £50,000 on offer to the winner, which is effectively half the budget of a 2017 Drive DMACK Trophy drive on the WRC calendar, there’s a huge incentive to do the job properly for any budding Colin McRaes and Richard Burnses.
In my role as head of International Motorsports Ltd, the MSA’s commercial arm, I’ve helped to turn around the fortunes of this country’s WRC qualifier, Wales Rally GB, so if the BRC can follow suit and get back to its glory days, then rallying in this country will be in an even better place.
Come and see us on an event this year and you’ll realise why we’re pretty excited by it all. The season kicks off with the Mid Wales Stages this weekend, with crews tackling classic Rally GB stages such as Sweet Lamb and Hafren. And with WRC star Elfyn Evans committing to the BRC in 2016 there’ll be a lot of interest throughout the year, especially after his recent WRC R5 victories in Monte Carlo and Sweden.
2016 MSA British Rally Championship Calendar
Mid Wales Stages – March 5-6
Circuit of Ireland – April 8-9
Pirelli Carlisle Rally – April 30-May 1
RSAC Scottish Rally – June 25
Nicky Grist Stages – July 9-10
Ulster Rally – August 19-20
Rally Isle of Man – September 15-17