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Yates2Ford Fiesta R5 pilot Rhys Yates has set his sights firmly on a finish as he contests the second round of the MSA British Rally Championship, The Circuit of Ireland Rally (7th – 9th April). Having endured a tough opening round of the season back in March at the Mid Wales Stages, the Brettex Site Services backed duo of Yates and co-driver Tom Woodburn will head to the closed road event in search of valuable points to get his championship hopes back on track.

Whilst understandably Yates’ inaugural season in the new-look MSA British Rally Championship would be a steep learning curve, the Chesterfield driver stunned many rivals on the opening day in the forests of Wales last month with several top 5 times on a leader board packed with experience. After sliding off the road on the second day, Yates ended the event without any points and heads across the Irish Sea in an attempt to make some ground on the leaders.

The series switches onto asphalt for the “Circuit” and crews are faced with 210km of competitive stages on one of the most famous rallies in the world. Joined by teams from the European Rally Championship, the event is based in the historic city of Belfast and is held over the closed public roads across Eastern Ireland and Northern Ireland.

And it certainly won’t be an easy task for Yates as he will need to guide his Michelin shod Fiesta through his first ever closed road event, on stages which are renowned for catching out even the most experienced driver.  “It was always going to be a year of ‘firsts’ and this is the biggest test for me and the car so far this year” explains Yates.  “It would be great to show the pace that we did on the Mid Wales but we need to be realistic and the goal here this weekend is simply to bag some points towards the rest of the year. It’s a mammoth event with two very long days so it will be an achievement just to get to the end I think”.

His previous experience on asphalt will not be much use to the 23 year old either. “I`ve led a sealed surface event at Rockingham before but this is on another level” he says.  “I`ll be taking it stage by stage and learning as I go. I have to remember as well, this is only my second full year in the sport. We have had a good recce and we have a lot of information in the pace notes, but it’s going to be tough with all the standing water on the roads which may or may not still be there by the weekend. It’s going to be tricky, but I can’t wait to get going”.

After a ceremonial start on Thursday evening, the rally kicks off on Friday taking in six stages including the Super Special spectator stage at Newtownards TT circuit to round off the day. Eight stages lie ahead on Saturday before the crews return to the finish celebrations later that evening in Belfast. Yates starts the event at number 49 seed, thanks to the European Rally Championship entries taking up the first 30 places.

Yates is supported by Brettex Site Services, Michelin, NGK Spark Plugs and Simpson.

Image courtesy of Jakob Ebrey Photography

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