Chesterfield rally star Rhys Yates stamped his authority firmly on the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship (BRC) leader board last weekend as he took his Ford Fiesta R5 to fifth place at the Brick and Steel Border Counties Rally.
In only his second season in the series, Yates triumphed over many more experienced competitors and his top five result meant he was also the first English driver home in the ultra-competitive BRC field.
In a weekend where the Brettex Site Services backed ace was never outside the top ten, Yates is well on course to better his tenth place finish position in last year’s BRC standings.
One of the strongest BRC entries for many years headed to the market town of Jedburgh in the Borders for the opening round of the season which would offer two tough days of action in the south of Scotland forests.
Heavy rain descended on the region for the ceremonial start under the shadow of Jedburgh Abbey and the two stages on Friday night would prove to be a tough start to the season for many.
But Yates and co-driver Carl Williamson took the inclement weather in their stride and opened proceedings with a solid eighth fastest time on the opening night time test.
With a repeat of the Craik stage to follow, the Michelin shod Fiesta held firm in the mud strewn stage and sixth fastest through the second run meant Yates ended the opening leg in a firm sixth overall.
The rain and mist would not subside for day two of the event and Yates elected to play safe through the first of the morning’s stages. Later admitting he was perhaps a little too cautious in the second and third stages of the day, he dropped to eighth spot as the daylight offered the chance to make up valuable time.
But as confidence grew, the times began to tumble and Yates began to string together several top six times during the mid-afternoon loop and in turn, began to move up the leader board. A mature run over the afternoon stages saw him hunt down the positions in front, climbing from eighth to fifth over the closing stages, crossing the ceremonial finish back in Jedburgh with his best ever result in the British Championship.
“We really could not have kicked off our BRC campaign any better than that” said Yates at the finish. “The whole weekend was perfect from start to finish and we had no problems with the car whatsoever which is a real credit to the team. Carl and I worked really well in the car and he gave me the confidence to push on where we could and as my confidence grew, you can see the times started to come down”.
Being first Englishman home was also a fitting reward for the 23 year old.
“If you look at the names on the results, they have all been rallying for many years. This is only my second year in the championship and I have a lot to learn but I know that there is much more to come too. This result gives us a great start to our BRC campaign so we just need to keep this up on the next round in Cumbria”.
The second round of the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship takes place in Carlisle on the 29th/30th April.
Yates is backed in 2017 by Michelin, Protyre, Kick Motorsport, Simpson, Zenith Racing, Prestone, Draper Tools, Jordan Road Surfacing and NGK Spark Plugs.
Yates is also supported by H&F PES, Maun Motors, MFA, Calow Lane MOT Centre, The Mobility Shop, Glazebrook Transport, Woodleigh Motor Sales, Juice Motorsport and Clear Edge Filtration Group.
Image credits: Eddie Kelly Photography