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Brettex backed Skoda Fabia R5 driver Rhys Yates overcame difficult conditions and an off-road excursion to claim third place in the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship (BRC) at last weekend’s Ulster Rally (17/18 August).

After leading the Antrim based event early on, the Chesterfield driver endured a tough opening day, losing time with a notional time which ate into his rally lead, leaving him second at the overnight halt.

A brush with the scenery on Saturday whilst trying to claw back time meant he left Northern Ireland with his hopes for a top place in the British Championship standings at the end of the season still alive.

The 26-year-old would head across the Irish Sea to kick-start a busy week as he contests both the BRC qualifier in Ulster before immediately heading to the Czech Republic to tackle the Barum Czech Rally Zlin (24-26 August). The event is a round of the FIA European Rally Championship and Yates heads there with an eye on the Under 28 Junior honours. He will drive a Kresta Racing Skoda Fabia R5.

Yates was joined in Ulster by James Morgan in the co-drivers seat and they immediately took first blood in a rain-soaked opening loop of stages, going quickest on stage one and opening up a seven-second lead to the chasing BRC pack. His hard work would be undone on the third test when fellow BRC crew Jonny Greer went off the road, cancelling the stage and handing all following competitors a notional time.

Conditions would be mixed throughout the early evening tests he would end the opening day in second spot, just one down on the BRC leader.

Yates mirrored his impressive first stage blast on Saturday’s first test, going quickest to regain the lead of the rally outright. With changeable weather on the stages some 40 minutes away from the Antrim service park, he elected to take a gamble with tyre choice for the afternoon.

By the time the leading crews arrived, the surface on the road had changed and with the incorrect Michelin rubber on the Skoda, he dropped to second and the battle to regain top spot would resume after a service halt.

Sadly, on a tightening left-hand bend on the ninth test the Skoda slid wide into a hedge, damaging the rear and causing an instant puncture. Loosing well over a minute, he dropped to third BRC crew. With repairs effected in service, Yates tried his best to regain the lost time but with only three stages left he elected to take a mature approach to the final loop and took the final British Championship podium spot.

“Third place here isn’t really representative of our pace this weekend but I`m happy to grab some valuable championship points for the season, especially after the Ypres Rally non-finish,” said Yates.

“We showed what we could do from the opening stage and I know the speed has been there, but everything didn’t quite fall into place with some of that being outside our control. It’s certainly been a character-building rally but it’s all part of the experience and sometimes its what you do after the knock backs that count. We have been just a few seconds away from the top spot throughout the event and that’s important to remember going forward. With third, we still have a chance of a top three place in the BRC standings so it’s certainly not over”.

Yates won’t have time to relax however as he immediately heads to the Czech Republic for a Barum pre-event test with the Kresta Racing team. Yates, re-joined by regular co-driver Elliott Edmondson, will be hoping his seat-time last weekend will help his European efforts.

“There is something quite nice about going straight from one event into another like this and everything is all pretty fresh in my mind, so I think that will help. We couldn’t get our car here in time, so we needed another option. The stages there are a stone’s throw from Roman’s (Kresta) workshop so if anyone knows the Barum Rally, it’s him. It will undoubtedly be another pretty big challenge as the Junior Under 28 pace is insane but as always, I’m up for it”.

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 credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography

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