Spectacular sideways action to warm the winter crowd

The all-season sport of rallying makes a return to Brands Hatch later this month (Sunday 22 January) as the Kent circuit hosts the TRS (Essex) Ltd Brands Hatch Stage Rally. The event follows a successful running in 2011, after a 20 year hiatus, and utilises special gravel stages and sections of the circuit’s paddock as well as parts of the Indy layout.

Over 90 entries have been recorded so far and many more are expected in the coming days as drivers finalise their plans after the Christmas break. Plenty of rally classics can be found amongst the list, including Escorts spanning the years, Mini Coopers and GTs, small hatches from Lotus Sunbeams to Focuses and Peugeots, and 4WD world-beaters from Subaru and Mitsubishi.

There are also examples of exotica on the list. The names Aston Martin and Ferrari may not be synonymous with gravel, pace notes and flying finishes but a four-litre AM GT and 308 GTB Michelotto will be competing. They’ll be lining up to beat last year’s winning Darrian piloted by John Indri and Dave Engwell.

Several thousand spectators witnessed the unusual car win after a strong challenge from Nigel Mummery and Fiona Scarrett ended up with their Ford Focus beached at Paddock Hill. However the gravel is a lot shallower elsewhere on the course, and the sideways spectacle of a thrilling sport rarely seen in the south east will be something to behold.

Another feature familiar to rally drivers is running in the dark and the event will finish after dusk, leaving a spectacular sight as the cars are distinguished by bright headlights, exhaust flames and glowing brake discs.

With the eight stages extended from last year and a bigger entry list, a strong crowd is expected for the opening event of a spectacular 2012 season.

Tickets for the TRS (Essex) Ltd Brands Hatch Stage Rally on 22 January are available in advance from £10 until Tuesday 17 January at midday, with free entry for children 12 and under. For more information, call 0843 453 9000 or visit www.brandshatch.co.uk