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Steve_Brown_in actionAfter a nail biting finish to last year’s MSA Asphalt Rally Championship, Nissan Micra Kit Car pilot Steve Brown will head overseas in 2016 to tackle the Flanders International Rally Challenge (FIRC) which kicks off with this weekend’s ORC Canal Rally (28th/29th May).  Having narrowly missed out on a class B9 victory in 2015, Brown and regular co-driver Paul Stringer will turn their attentions to the infamous Belgium roads this season, vying for class 3F glory.

The 28 year old Questmead Sales Engineer from Rochdale endured a challenging first half of the season last year as he ironed out teething troubles in his newly built Nissan Micra. Two victories on the Manx National and Mewla Rally were the rewards for his efforts but he missed out on the 1400cc class title by just two points thanks to the cancellation of the final round.

In search of a new challenge this year, Brown headed to mainland Europe last November on a fact finding mission and to sample closed road rallying in Belgium. With the country adopting a different approach to rallying than here in the UK, the enthusiasm and welcoming nature of the Flanders residents impressed Brown and he set about planning an assault on the highly competitive FIRC.  The six round series for foreign participants kicks off with the ORC Canal Rally and is based in Oostrozebeke.

With around 100kms of competitive stages to tackle over the weekend, Brown is looking forward to a change of scenery in his rallying career.  “Rallying is great in the UK of course, but when you head overseas to the likes of Belgium, you see how different they approach the sport and the entire community get involved” says Brown. “The spectator numbers are unbelievable and with town centre service areas, there is a real party atmosphere on the events. Everyone is really pleased to see you”.

But that’s not the only draw for the Rochdale driver.  “The roads are legendary over there and so very challenging” he says. “They are nothing like I have competed on before though.  They are closed public roads of course but nothing like the Isle of Man or Epynt from last year.  There are ditches everywhere, ready to catch you out if you are just a few inches out of line so we will certainly be looking to manage our expectations on the first round.”

Brown will perhaps leave the trophy hunting to later on in the year. “There will be a lot of new challenges for us and making our own pace notes for the first time will mean we will be learning all the time, I think it will be realistic at this stage to just look for a finish.  Once we adapt to the style of stages over there we can think about pushing on. But for now, I’d like to get through the first round without too many dramas”.

Brown is supported in 2016 by Fuchs Titan Race, Questmead Ltd, 710, PIAA and Pirelli

Image courtesy of Manxman Photos

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