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After storming to victory at Rally Van Wervik in Belgium, a warm-up event for round two of the British Championship, the 24-year-old from Chesterfield had his sights set on a top-five finish last weekend. But after an impressive performance during the pre-event practice session and subsequent qualifying, Yates was forced to pull out of the event as co-driver Elliott Edmondson became ill and was advised not to continue by the event medics.

Yates headed back to Belgium for the star-filled event in which some of the best drivers in the British, European and World Rally Championships descended on the historic Ypres town. The difficult closed public road rally is considered one of the most prestigious in Europe and was all set to witness one of the most hard-fought battles for honours in many years.

Yates would get his rally off to the best possible start with fourth fastest overall time, less than half a second behind current World Rally Championship leader Thierry Neuville. Qualifying was equally as productive, going sixth quickest and leading BRC crew by over two seconds.

A difficult opening day saw several trips into the notorious Belgian ditches as Yates searched for a comfortable but competitive pace. As the day progressed, Edmondson had been progressively feeling worse but battled on regardless to ensure the duo could get to the end of the opening leg.

However, just two stages into day two, Edmondson collapsed and on the advice of the event medical team, they withdrew to enable him to receive essential attention.

“Of course, I`m gutted to have to withdraw from the event but I know Elliott is just as disappointed as me,” said Yates.

“At the end of the day we are very much a team inside that car and we are at that level and that pace now where neither of us can afford to be less than 100 per cent right. Elliott’s health is really important and it’s certainly the right thing to do as he has been getting worse over the last 24 hours.”

Yates has elected to take the positives away from the weekend.

“It would be easy to dwell on what could have been, but we need to focus on our pace during practice and qualifying. We know its there and we have a lot going on this year with our European campaign as well as the British series, so this will give us a little time to recoup and put all our efforts into the next European Rally Championship round in Rome next month.”

Yates currently lies fourth in the championship with three events remaining this season.

Yates is sponsored by Brettex, Michelin Motorsport, Jordan Road Surfacing, Draper Tools, Rallynuts, Rainworth Skoda, Nicky Grist Motorsport, H&F Furniture, NGK Spark Plugs and Protyre.

Image: Jakob Ebrey Photography

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