A top class field and a host of new R5 specification cars should ensure a battle royal on next weekend’s Pirelli International Rally when the gravel tracks in the legendary Kielder Forest, rallying’s most famous venue, will echo to the growl and the roar of the high-tech cars as a truly International field joust for glory and points in three major championships. The Carlisle based rally brings together contestants in the FIA Celtic Trophy, the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship and the Mintex MSA British Historic Championship, add in several regional championships and it all adds up to an amazing display of driving talent. Back and hoping to repeat last year’s Pirelli Rally victory is Swedish star, Fredrik Ahlen, this year with a new co-driver in Torstein Erikson. Ahlen won the opening round of the British series but he faces a stern challenge on the Cumbrian event with no fewer than three former Pirelli winners in the field. Osian Pryce/ Dale Furniss took 3rd place on the opening round but will want to move higher up the podium on the Pirelli backed event, Irishman Keith Cronin is a double Pirelli winner and few would bet against him chalking up a hat trick, having already won in a Mitsubishi Evo and Citroen DS3, Cronin will be out this time in a ford Fiesta R5. One guy looking to get his championship campaign back on track will be 4 times Scottish Champion and 2011 Pirelli winner, David Bogie who was battling for the lead on the opening round when a rare error put him off the road, always competitive, the Dumfries driver has a lot to prove this time out. Another driver to look out for is Irish star Marty McCormack, he won the Pirelli Historic Rally over the same Kielder stages a few years ago so will certainly know his way around the stages. One driver who could upset the championship regulars is Norwegian star Eyvind Brynildsen who is taking time out from his World Rally Championship commitments to mix it with the series top drivers and it will be interesting to see how he adapts to the very fast forest tracks in the Kielder complex, although no stranger to gravel roads, Brynildsen’s recent events have had more than fair bit of snow mixed in. The Pirelli International Rally will see the first UK rally appearance of the new Hyundai i20R5 piloted by Tom Cave and James Morgan, the Korean manufacture is on a high following its recent successes in the World Rally Championship and will no doubt be hoping that Kielder’s forest tracks are full of Eastern promise! The high class entry for the Pirelli International Rally will also feature a very competitive field contesting the Mintex MSA British Historic Championship, led by Nick Elliott/ Dave Price who are on a high following their dominant performance on the previous round when they were fastest on every stage, Elliott has won the historic section of the Pirelli on three previous occasions, so he obviously has a liking for the fast Kielder stages. He faces stern opposition however, not least from Jason Pritchard who challenged Elliott hard on the last round until a puncture forced him to settle for 2nd place, Joe Price who was also pushing Elliott hard till he ran out of road and the vastly experienced Steve Bannister, another previous Pirelli Historic winner who has the pace to trade times with the best and is always in contention. Rally enthusiasts can obtain a full and informative programme that gives lots of information about the rally, biographic details of the crews and their cars plus details of where to watch the cars and how to get there. Programmes are available from the rally base at H & H Borderway and from the various spectator car parks located for convenient access to the rally’s special stages The Pirelli International Rally runs over the weekend of 29th/ 30th April and the first car will head off from the H & H Borderway Mart, located just off the M6 motorway at Junction 43, at 08:00 on the Saturday morning while the finish will be a spectacular affair outside the historic Guildhall in Brampton market place at around 12:30pm on the Sunday. The whole of the main street will be especially closed off for the occasion and there will be a real carnival atmosphere as the cars roll into town with lots of added attractions including the Pirelli Formula 1 simulator and a giant 60 foot video screen showing all the action from the event.