The history of the English Rally Championship
The idea of an English Rally Championship was first promoted by Keith Baud in the 1990’s. However it was not into 2005 when the BTRDA created a specific English Rally Challenge over the 6 English based rallies in the BTRDA Rally Series.
In late 2005 the BTRDA made an application to the MSA for a permit to run an official English Rally Championship. This was approved by the MSA who hold the rights to the ‘home country’ titles and so the MSA English Rally Championship came into being in 2006.
The championship has always had a class based format to enable competitors with smaller engined cars to have an equal chance of becoming English Rally Champions. This was ably demonstrated when Neil Weaver and Nick Thornton became the inaugural MSA English Rally Champions using a 1400cc Corsa, whilst in 2007 and 2008 Champions Tristan Pye and Keith Turner both used Class N4 cars.
The current format of a class based championship for 2 wheel drive cars up to a maximum of 2 litres was introduced in 2009, along with the inclusion of the Trackrod Rally and Tempest 2 Rally. Jon Ballinger / Alistair Douglas won the championship in 2009 in a 2 litre Class 5 Opel Manta whilst in 2010 the most competitive class was for cars up to 1400cc where there were many close contests between Matt Edwards / Sam Collis (MG ZR) and Darren Pinchin / Karen Watts (Proton Satria).
Scotsman Alan McDowall in a class 5 Opel Kadett was 2011 English Champion whilst in 2012 and 2013 it was Julian Wilkes and Will Rutherford-Child (Class 2 Vauxhall Nova) who were dominant, winning successive championships with a maximum points score. 2014 was the year when Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis (Class 5 Historic Mk 2 Escort) won both the MSA English Rally Championship and the BTRDA Silver Star titles.
In 2015 the battle was between Rhys Yates (Class E3 Fiesta R2) and Dave Bennett / Alistair McNeil (Class 2 Corsa) with Rhys Yates finally taking the drivers title by just 2 points.
2016 saw a significant change when the Championship was opened up to all types of rally car which were split in to 8 competition classes. However the class based scoring format was retained so that crews from any of the classes had a chance of becoming English Rally Champions. Sam Bilham in a Fiesta ST won the title in 2016 whilst Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson (Fiesta RS WRC) had a very successful season in 2017 taking the English Rally Championship titles along with the BTRDA Gold Star Championship. Ian Joel and Graeme Wood were the English Rally Champions in 2018 in the Ford Escort Cosworth. Steve Black was the Champion Driver in 2019 using a 1400cc Suzuki with Tom Wood as the Champion Co-driver. Sadly the 2020 season was lost due to the Covid19 pandemic.