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James Yates showed that the family rally driving skills are not limited to brother Rhys, by taking a stunning second overall at the Neil Howard Memorial Stages Rally at Oulton Park last weekend (3rd November 2018).

The Chesterfield driver contested only his fifth ever event and made his debut behind the wheel of the Brettex backed Skoda Fabia R5 which his brother has been using with great success in the British and World Rally Championship.

With James having only ever driven an R5 specification rally car twice before, Rhys elected to sit beside the 24-year-old in the co-driver’s seat to team up for the very first time to contest the Motorsport News Circuit Rally Championship opening round.

Having previously contested the event in 2016, James would need to call on all his limited but vital previous experience of the Cheshire race circuit which was adapted into a stage rally venue for the event.

Like Rhys, James came from a rich motorsport heritage and made his rallying debut in 2013 behind the wheel of the Suzuki Swift which was shared with his brother. Whilst Rhys went on to contest the British, European and World Championships, James would be tasked with helping in the busy family business, becoming integral to its day-to-day running. This meant he was only able to compete on selected outings, his last being on this very event in 2016.

But there was no sign of the fondly named “JJ” easing back into the driving seat, firing the Brettex Skoda into the joint lead of the rally after the opening stage of the event. Yates did his best to hold onto his second spot throughout the day, fighting hard with British Rallycross ace Kevin Procter and 2018 Prestone MSA British Rally Championship runner-up Alex Laffey.

By his own admission, the following handful of stages were “scrappy” and he would haemorrhage time to his rivals on the damp and tricky sections of the circuit.

The afternoon stages provided a chance for James to settle into his new surroundings and with just a handful of stages to go, he had reduced the gap to the leader from 17 seconds to just 10. A last stage blast reduced the deficit again, only losing out on his second rally win by just six seconds after nine hard-fought stages.

“It’s been a great day and to come away with second place after two years away from the driving seat is pretty special,” said James at the finish.

“I felt really confident after the opening stage of the day but then lost so much time over the next four or so. Silly mistakes too, but when you add them all up, make all the difference. It was good fun on the fight back this afternoon though and I think if we had another stage we would have done it.”

James was also impressed with Rhys’ skills in the co-drivers seat.

“Considering he has only read pace notes once before for my dad, he did really well today. I’m sure it wasn’t his favourite place to be and I think a few times he wanted to get into my side of the car but I understand that; it’s his car after all. I think I better hand the keys back now.”

The next outing for the Brettex Rally Team is to be confirmed and more information will be announced in the coming week.

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 credits: Flat Shift Media

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