Rallye Sunseeker: who will win this weekend?

For the second year running, Rallye Sunseeker will kick off the MSA British Rally Championship in Bournemouth this Friday when Jarkko Nikara and co driver Petri Nikara will lead the field away at the now hugely popular ceremonial start alongside the event sponsor Sunseeker International Headquarters on Poole quayside. He returns to the championship this year at the wheel of an Autosport Technology run Citroen DS3 R3T.

Seeded directly behind him at No2 is Mark Donnelly from Omagh, with Dai Roberts from Carmarthen partnering him in the Renault Clio R3. Donnelly had several good performances last year, and is certain to be in the frame for a good result come Saturday evenings finish in Bournemouth.

Alastair Fisher and Daniel Barritt will run at No3 in their Ford Fiesta R2. Alastair began his rally career in 2005, and had some terrific runs last year, most notably winning the FIA WRC Academy cup section on the Rallye de France .

Elfyn Evans follows with Andrew Edwards in the co driver seat and they will compete in a Ford Fiesta R2.

2012 Pirelli UK Star Driver, Jukka Korhonen is up next in the TEG Sport run Skoda Fabia R2. The first ever non Great Britain winner of the award will have his Skoda Fabia carry a unique Driver livery for the whole of the British Championship.

Peter Taylor returns to the British Championship, this time in a Renault Clio R3. Partnered by Andrew Roughead, Peter certainly had people talking about some of his performances last year and will be one to watch out for on this years Rallye Sunseeker.

Callum Black, from Brackley in Northants, is back again this year for the BRC, and uses the Suzuki Swift S1600 that he campaigned last year. A lot of work has been done on the car in preparation for this year, and both he and co driver Chris Williams will start Rallye Sunseeker confident of a good finish in the Millers Oils 586 Team Suzuki.

2011 Citroen Racing Trophy UK winner Desi Henry is next at No 9 in a new car. Last years C2R2 has been replaced with a Citroen DS3R3. Niall Burns from Sligo will co drive and the pair should be seen as serious championship contenders for 2012.

No10 seed will be the 2300 Club John Easson Awards winner Osian Pryce in a DS3 R3T as well with Iestyn Williams co driving, the pair will be hoping for a strong performance in what should be one of the leading cars for victory.

Ford Junior Team Finland driver Jussi Kumpumaki will start Rallye Sunseeker at No 11 and have Jani Salo in the passenger seat for this year. Jussi is the 2010 Finnish Fiesta Trophy Champion and finished 3rd in the BRC Trophy last year behind eventual winner Osian Pryce.

Last year’s runner up, Tom Cave is back for more in 2012 and this time drives a Ford Fiesta R2 with Craig Parry in the co driver’s seat. Tom has bought a Citroen DS3 to rally this year, but sadly it will not arrive in the UK in time for the pair to compete on Rallye Sunseeker. With last years experience on the event, Tom should find this of benefit on this years rally.

No15 seed will be the second of the Ford Junior Team Finland drivers, in the shape of Niko Nieminen. Niko, from Loimaa has plenty of experience gained in campaigns on Finnish and Baltic rallies, and should not be discounted from a good result on Rallye Sunseeker.

2011 BRC Challenge winner Jack Rowe is up next, seeded 16th in his Ford Fiesta R2. Rowe stunned onlookers last year with his pace and ability, and will be aiming to repeat his feat again this year. James Aldridge will do drive for Jack.

Twice British Champion, Keith Cronin is seeded at No17 in what is reported to be a one off drive, in a Monster Sport Europe run Renault Twingo R1. It was a deal that all came about very quickly for Keith, who will be partnered this time by the very experienced Seb Marshall. He has registered for the BRC however, so don’t rule out further appearances this year.

Other notable entries include Ruary Macleod / Paul Beaton from Scotland who will drive a Ford Fiesta R2, Alex Parpottas / Chris Davies will compete in another Ford Fiesta R2, as will Matthew Cathcart from Northern Ireland with Aberdares James Morgan as co driver.

No22 and 23 seeds both make a welcome return to the BRC, and in Ford Fiesta ST’s to boot. Former National F2 champion Gethin Jones and Kevin Devine start at No22, and he is making a comeback after a 13 year absence. The car is run by AVS Motorsport who also run his No23 seeded teammate Matt Cotton. Glyn Thomas will co drive Matt who returns after a 3 year absence away from the sport. They also intend to contest the Teams Cup. A welcome addition.

With further entries from the likes of Christian South / Tomas Whittle in a Citroen C2R2, Nick Allen / Andy Bull in a Renault Twingo R2, Chris Ingram / Joe Cruttendon in a Renault Twingo R2, Not to mention Arron Newby / Julian Wilkinson in a TEG Sport run Skoda Fabia R2, as well as Steve Rokland in a Fiesta and Garry Pearson in a

Twingo R1 the whole event is shaping up to be one of a serious competitive nature for those that not only are competing, but those who come to spectate.

Another major scoop for Rally fans is the fact that another former British Champion is set to grace the Sunseeker Stages. Former British Super 1600 Champion Justin Dale will drive an upgraded version of the Renault Twingo R2 on the south coast stages this weekend. As the car cannot be homologated untill March Justin and co driver Andrew Bargery will run as Course “0” car and will not be eligible for overall results.

Whatever happens, the quality in this year’s Rallye Sunseeker cannot be underestimated. The competitive edge of these cars is much closer now, so tight and ferocious battles will lie ahead over Saturday’s stages. The spectators are certain to be in for a treat, so the advice is get there early.