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Jukka Korhonen and Marko Salminen broke the 12 year Finnish drought at the top of the MSA British Rally Championship this weekend, finishing the final stage of Rallye Sunseeker International in third place, securing the British overall and class titles in their Citroën DS3 amid jubilant scenes.

Korhonen appeared relieved but delighted at the finish of the event saying; “I really don’t know what to say right now! It’s been one of the longest days ever, but it is just an amazing feeling! I am so proud to add my name to the trophy that has the likes of Hannu Mikkola and Ari Vatanen on it.

“The competition has been so close; it has been a very good year. Marko has done a fantastic job this year and I must thank the Autosport Technology team too, the car has been perfect.”

Rallye Sunseeker was a nail-biter from start to finish, three drivers in with a shout at the BRC title. But the Finns had the upper hand ahead of the Poole-based rally, needing only to finish third to guarantee this world-renowned rallying accolade.

Mercifully dry during Saturday’s action, the weather had threatened to turn throughout Friday, but rain stayed away just long enough for a packed ceremonial start on Poole Quay. Overnight the heavens opened, leaving the stages wet and slippery, ready to catch out the unwary.

Keenly aware of the conditions, Welshmen Osian Pryce and Dale Furniss dominated from the start of the 60 mile event to take their third straight victory in the Ringwood forests, their hat-trick helping to secure second in the championship. After beating Tom Cave/Ieuan Thomas on the stages, both ended a tense season on 92 points. In a reversal of the pair’s 2012 Rally Yorkshire tie break, this time it went in favour of Pryce, based on his higher number of maximum scores this season.

After the first loop of stages Cave had been fifth in his Morris Lubricants DMS machine, but with a total of less than eight seconds covering the top five, it was still all to play for. A fastest time on the longest stage catapulted him to third, managing to ease past Korhonen for second by the half way point.

It was down to Alastair Fisher/Gordon Noble and Cave/Thomas to attempt to wrest the title from Korhonen, both crews needing to win to have any chance of series victory. But from the very first stage it was clear that Pryce had other ideas, making his mark on the opening test with a time 1.9 seconds clear of last year’s winner and number one seeds, Mark Donnelley and Dai Roberts.

DGM Sport driver Donnelly looked like he had the measure of his Pirelli Star Drive prize DS3 at last, but the pace at the front was so hot that he and Roberts were quickly swallowed up by an onslaught of Citroëns. Their eventual fifth place belied the fierceness of the competition though, the margin between him and fellow Northern Irish crew Fisher/Noble never more than two seconds until near the end of the ten-stage rally.

In a season where tenths have replaced seconds on some events, Donnelly’s DGM Sport team-mate Fisher missed a podium place by just 0.2 seconds, unable to make a significant dent in Korhonen’s stages times on a surface that sapped power from the front-runners’ Citroën DS3s.

Despite being just 25, Jonny Greer could be considered a BRC veteran and he was reasonably pleased with sixth after climbing from eighth early on. The Ulsterman and Scottish co-driver Kirsty Riddick managing to keep Culina Palletforce Racing crew John MacCrone and Phil Pugh at bay after overhauling them on stage three.

Callum Black and James Morgan ended the day in eighth place, the 22 year-old Brackley man surprised and delighted to take the Mantis Performance Car Care award and cheque for £250 at a darkening Poole Quay finish.

County Monaghan’s Daniel McKenna and Arthur Kierans held their nerve in the BRC RallyTwo and BRC Class 6 title fight, a controlled run allowing rivals Steve Røkland and James Aldridge the event win, but second place enough to seal the series for the Irish pairing. They also secure the Fiesta SportTrophy, following in the footsteps of drivers who have gone on to success on the world rally stage. Victory also means a free entry on Wales Rally GB, part of the joint BRC and WRGB Road to Wales campaign.

Røkland was fastest of the RallyTwo runners throughout the day, managing ninth overall and the International Rally Drivers’ Club Newcomers Award on the rally, with an untroubled run in the Fiesta R2. The quietly spoken 21 year-old has, however, shouted about his performance in his home Norway, adding his name to the Prodrive-supported BRCLIVE Media Trophy finalists through great media exposure in 2013.

Rally Yorkshire’s Pirelli Star Driver nomination Alex Parpottas had a new co-driver, Alexander Kihurani, helping the 20-year old to third place in the ultra-competitive category. Another good drive demonstrated a growing maturity from the Hertfordshire Fiesta pilot.

Twingo Renaultsport R2 Trophy winners Chris Ingram and John Connor were fourth, making a welcome sight in the forests in the fantastic sounding Renault Twingo R2 Evo. They bettered fifth placed David Carney and Ray Fitzpatrick during the first half of the day’s stages, managing to keep them at bay, despite Carney’s faster times after lunch – times that gave them maximum points in the RAVENOL Oils Newcomers Trophy.

The battle for the BRC Teams Cup went to DGM Sport, courtesy of great performances throughout the season by Fisher and Donnelly. Only the highest placed driver scores for this trophy, so enabling Cave’s Morris Lubricants DMS single car entry to stay in touch right to the finish, finishing just three points adrift. With all scores counting towards the trophy, MacCrone’s retirement in Ulster cost Culina Palletforce Racing a chance at the title, but the team worked hard to secure third.

As the top of the championship has been dominated by the awesome Citroën DS3 R3T, it is no surprise that Citroën UK retains the MSA British Manufacturers Rally Championship. No surprise, but no less impressive, as the car of choice for the majority of front-runners, the front wheel drive 210 horsepower machines have been fast, reliable and brilliant to watch.

In addition to providing the car that dominated the series, Citroën’s support of its eponymous Racing Trophy means that Pryce takes a massive €5000 in parts vouchers, a share of the €63,000 made available at the start of the season.

As overall Citroën Racing Trophy champion, Korhonen also takes a free entry to Wales Rally GB, the final round of the World Rally Championship, plus €8000 start money and 20 Pirelli tyres. Pryce grabs an additional €5000 start money and 12 Pirelli tyres with third placed Cave rewarded with €3000 start money and eight Pirellis for the November event.

Rallye Sunseeker International also saw the conclusion of the season-long battle for the MSA British Junior Rally Championship and Twingo Renaultsport R1 Trophy UK. Harry Threlfall and Andy Bull had a mountain to climb to beat their rivals to the titles, reliant on Ben and Jason Mckay’s retirement to clinch the series. But the situation did leave them free to push harder, knowing that Mckay would be in safe mode. Book-ending the season with wins, the ebullient man from Taunton was as pleased as ever on the Poole podium.

But it was team Mckay that groaned under the awards in Dorset. Having missed the pre-rally recce, they admitted to pottering round for a finish – not fast, but exactly the required approach in the circumstances. Another recipient of a free entry on Wales Rally GB for the Junior title, the Twingo prize also awaits in the south of France – an arrive-and-drive run in a Twingo R2 on Rallye du Var, the final round of the French Rally Championship.

Having secured the BRC Class 9, Junior and Twingo titles at the finish, the 21 year-old was preparing to head back to Oswestry when he had the surprise of the day. As reward for his mature first season en-route to the British Junior title, the Pirelli Star Driver judges awarded him the final place in the coveted shootout, a fantastic opportunity to be part of the selection process taking place this week.

But the awards didn’t stop there. Third in the RAVENOL Oils Newcomers Trophy on Rallye Sunseeker was enough to give Mckay the title ahead of David Carney, both passing season-long leader Jon Armstrong who retired his Fiesta on stage three.

Armstrong’s retirement was one of just four on the rally. Tim Cathcart, Kit Leigh and Ruary MacLeod’s Fiestas were all sidelined – a mix of mechanical and driver error contributing to the losses.

As the 55th MSA British Rally Championship season draws to a close, there is plenty of action and entertainment to occupy autumn and winter. With the Pirelli Star Driver shootout, end of season BRC Awards Ceremony, Wales Rally GB and Rallye du Var still to come, there is no need to put away the race suits and waterproofs just yet.

Catch all the action from this weekend’s MSA British Rally Championship Rallye Sunseeker International on Sky Sports 2 on Monday 28th October at 19:00hrs. If you can’t wait until then, keep an eye on the BRC website early this week for the short news edits. Full schedule HERE.

For more information on the MSA British Rally Championship visit http://www.rallybrc.co.uk

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