The M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally3 will make its Motorsport UK British Rally Championship debut in 2023 as former Junior BRC contender Johnnie Mulholland is set to step into four-wheel-drive machinery for the season ahead.
After winning the Academy Trophy title in 2021, Mulholland and co-driver Eoin Treacy battled at the sharp end of the Junior championship last season, rounding out the year with victory at the Cambrian Rally, sealing second place in the championship in the process.
Now, the 25-year-old driver from Co. Antrim in Northern Ireland will give the M-Sport Poland built Fiesta Rally3 its first outing in the British Championship at the season-opening Malcolm Wilson Rally, a fitting start to the Fiesta Rally3’s journey in the BRC.
“I’m always excited for the start of a new season but this one is different. A new rally, new car, new driving style, I honestly can’t wait to see what we can do with it, especially considering the rally it is and the car I’m in” explains Mulholland.
“This will be my fourth year in the BRC and with that the fourth different class and car. It’s a testament to the championship, the progression it offers and the different challenges it brings. I think the move to four-wheel drive through the Rally3 class will be a real highlight for the BRC and it’s a class that I can only see getting more popular as time goes on. I think it’s going to surprise a lot of people, and I hope it does!”
The British Rally Championship sees a range of Rally2 machinery battling for the prestigious title and was won by Osian Pryce and Noel O`Sullivan in 2022, driving a Volkswagen Polo GTi.
With the introduction of the Rally3 category in 2020, the FIA [Federation Internationale de l’Automobile] looked to bridge the gap between the leading two-wheel drive machinery and the big step into four-wheel drive models as driven by Pryce for example.
The M-Sport Ford Fiesta has been the market leader in the category so far, with its 1497cc, three-cylinder turbocharged powerplant producing around 235hp. Coupled with a sequential transmission and four-wheel drive, all packaged into a cost-effective platform, there is no wonder the FIA Junior World Rally Championship utilises it for the series.
Mulholland is a perfect partner to the Fiesta having progressed from the BRC Academy and into the Junior BRC in 2022. The Rally3 offers the next step on the ladder and the perfect introduction to four-wheel-drive and the internationally recognised category. Running in a dedicated BRC3 class, such is the technology available, the Fiesta could also well usurp those in the top-flight BRC1.
Responsible for overseeing the design and build of the Fiesta Rally3, Maciej Woda, Managing Director of M-Sport Poland is delighted to see Mulholland take the Fiesta into the British Championship this season.
“We are seeing tremendous growth in the Rally3 category now and the Fiesta Rally3 contesting the British Rally Championship this year is another historic milestone” he said.
“The BRC takes on some of the most iconic stages in rallying which are perfect for a four-wheel drive thoroughbred rally car like the Fiesta Rally3. I’m pleased to see Johnnie progress from the Fiesta Rally4 to the Fiesta Rally3, and I am sure he will be able to establish a stable development curve as he gets to grips with four-wheel drive machinery this year off the back of a successful year in Junior BRC in 2022.
“Matthew Wilson demonstrated the potential of the Fiesta Rally3 in Greystoke Forest in 2021, setting top-three overall stage times and finishing sixth overall against some of Britain’s best Rally2 drivers so it’s feasible for Johnnie to be fighting for top ten overall times as gels with the car.”
Recce Tarren, British Rally Championship Manager added, “This is very exciting for the BRC and Johnnie [Mulholland] is the perfect driver to give the Fiesta Rally3 its debut.
“He is a fine example of the progression available in the BRC, from the Academy Trophy to Junior BRC and then into four-wheel-drive, the Rally3 category is perfect for honing four-wheel-drive skills and offering career progression at the same time.
“We will be watching with interest this season and it would be great to see more Rally3 competitors joining the fold. We would also like to thank M-Sport Poland for offering our highest placed Junior BRC crew in a Fiesta Rally4, a test in the new Rally3 to enable them to sample the category for themselves”.
The 2023 British Rally Championship will see seven rounds, on a mix of both gravel and asphalt in each of the four home nations, plus a trip across to Europe for the iconic Ardeca Ypres Rally in Belgium. The opening round of the season takes place in March, with the Malcolm Wilson Rally at M-Sport Ford World Rally Team’s headquarters in Cumbria as the event base.