After a pulsating contest in the Irish lanes of West Cork, the Stellantis Motorsport Rally Cup IRE & UK returns next week [Saturday April 13] with its first gravel event, the Severn Valley Stages.

Promoted by Race & Rally, the all-new one-make championship for both Peugeot 208 and Opel Corsa Rally4 machines allows drivers to compete for a staggering €75,000 prize fund across eight epic events in Ireland and the UK.

A cash pot of €6,000 is available to the first five crews home on each event, with the winner collecting €3,000, sliding down to €500 for fourth place. The fifth placed driver receives one Michelin Motorsport tyre from distributors Protyre Motorsport Ireland. Plus, the Junior champion at the end of the season will receive registration to the 2025 FIA Junior European Rally Championship, entry fees to six rounds of the Junior ERC and 12 tyres per round contested in the series, worth almost €40,000.

Next week marks the series’ first foray into the United Kingdom, where the nine competing crews will also score points in the Probite Junior British Rally Championship. They’ll tackle a daunting 62 stage miles across seven tests that include the legendary Myherin and Sweet Lamb Hafren.

Welsh pairing Ioan Lloyd/Sion Williams took a close-fought victory on last month’s opening round to open up an early championship lead over Cian Caldwell/Liam Egan. Although they haven’t competed on gravel since October 2022, they will have the target on their backs as both the series leaders and the home heroes.

Robert Proudlock/Steven Brown, Kalum Graffin/Richard Crozier and Casey Jay Coleman/Lorcan Moore could all hold a slight advantage over their rivals next weekend with more seat time, as they all contested the opening round of the British Championship – the North West Stages.

Graffin was victorious on the Lancashire asphalt lanes, but Proudlock ran him close and is one of just two drivers (along with Lloyd) to have competed on the Severn Valley Stages before. Keelan Grogan/Ayrton Sherlock were out even more recently on last weekend’s Circuit of Ireland Rally, but didn’t get their Stellantis Motorsport Rally Cup season off to the best start in West Cork.

On the opposite end of the scale, Michael Fitzgibbon/Carrie Ryan face a big challenge as they compete on their very first event on the UK mainland. But a mature drive netted them an impressive third-placed podium on the West Cork Rally four weeks ago, so a similar performance could reap them big rewards.

Kyle McBride/Darragh Mullen and Joseph Kelly/Killian McArdle were both rapid in Ireland but didn’t secure a result, so will look to amend that on the gravel. Both of the 20-year-old drivers have driven on Welsh gravel before, so have a base-line of experience to work from.

A huge battle is anticipated to break out throughout the day, and Cian Caldwell can’t wait to get stuck in.

“I am really looking forward to taking my first trip across the seas to Wales to compete in the Severn Valley Stages. This will also be my first time completing a recce in the woods which I am excited to do,” Caldwell said.

“Some great stages lie ahead of us and I am excited to take on the Welsh gravel. Ioan Lloyd for sure is going to be fast out there along with Keelan Grogan and Robert Proudlock so it’s going to be a difficult days’ rallying between us. I am going to be focusing on myself and will be trying to get into a nice rhythm from the start .”

Seven stages will decide the contest, with McBride the first of the nine Peugeot 208 Rally4s to leave the Metropole Hotel in Llandrindod Wells on Saturday.