Osian Pryce and Rhys Yates are both targeting their first victories of the season on this week’s Trackrod Rally Yorkshire as the 2021 British Rally Championship season intensifies.
The Trackrod marks the start of a busy period of BRC action. Two weeks afterwards, the series heads to Mull for the very first time for a demanding asphalt test.
And then just three weeks after that, the championship heads to Wales and back to gravel for the Cambrian Rally. The season concludes with the Ulster Rally in November.
M-Sport’s Yates leads the championship by one point over Melvyn Evans Motorsport driver Pryce after three rounds. But BRC’s 2021 wins have been shared amongst Sam Moffett, reigning champion Matt Edwards and Matthew Wilson to date.
Pryce is aware that he needs to get a maximum score on the board soon if he’s to remain in the hunt for the championship.
“We need to get the high numbers in really because yeah, consistent is good but the way the points structure works, it doesn’t really win the championship unless we obviously lose a round, that’s the only way it would pay off as the dropped score rule would change slightly,” he said.
“This is what I’ve got in the back of my mind this year with the uncertainty of everything, you’ve got to be there at the end on every round. So that’s highly important.
“But it is a bit of a situation. Matt [Edwards] is still in a very good position considering he’s dropped a round, so he’s probably in the best position even though he’s not actually top of the board so again we need to get a win in to get up the road a bit more on points.”
Edwards’ season has been mixed so far. Driving for the same team as Pryce, he was a penalised fourth at Oulton Park before storming to victory and the championship lead on the Nicky Grist Stages.
But a misfiring engine on the Grampian Forest Rally last month – something that also affected him briefly on the Nicky Grist – meant he scored no points on round three. The best five scores from seven contribute towards a competitor’s final points tally.
“We certainly need a successful weekend [on the Trackrod],” Edwards admitted.
“We’re a little on the back foot after retiring on the Grampian, but we know the speed is there and we know we can do what we need to do.
“The championship’s wide open, and a good result on the Trackrod will put us right back up there.”
Yates is viewed as the other main protagonist for the title, and he recently spoke to Rally Insight about his approach to the season.
But like Pryce, he’s another that feels he needs to “stop just being Mr Consistent” and is striving to grab a win on his home round of the BRC this week.
“I’ll be the first to admit we have been a little off the pace this season and have had our fair share of the luck not being on our side, but I need to up my game and get my first BRC win,” Yates said.
“That’s certainly the plan in Yorkshire”.
The Trackrod marks the midway point of the season and is the longest gravel event at 56.2 miles.
Action begins on Friday with an 11.2-mile blast through Dalby in the dark before five stages (Cropton, Gale Rigg, Staindale, Langdale and Dalby again) on Saturday.
Edwards, Pryce, and Yates are the top three seeds with Wilson and Stuart Loudon seeded at four.
Despite skipping the opening round and not heading to Mull either, Loudon reckons Wilson is still in contention for the drivers’ standings. Loudon has no realistic hope in the co-drivers’ as Elliott Edmondson took his place on the Grampian.
“The aim is obviously to get the best results for M-Sport and promote the Rally2 car as much as we can, but from Matt’s point-of-view as well, Matt knows that there’s still a chance that he can win the drivers’ championship,” Loudon said.
“You just don’t know, nobody knows how rallies can pan out with mechanical things and punctures and all that kind of stuff. I think a lot of people forget Matt was rallying at the very, very top level in world championship for many years and he is no slouch. I think he showed that when it was a level playing field at the Grampian with new stages for everybody.”
Four-time British champion Keith Cronin lines up at five in his Ford Fiesta Rally2 and will be a dark horse for success having fought Yates hard for a podium place in Scotland.
Ollie Mellors returns to BRC competition for the first time since his terrifying Nicky Grist accident in his Proton Iriz R5, and could equally go well having won this event in the past when it wasn’t part of the British championship.
The Irish entry has slimmed significantly with the return of multi-venue stage rallying on the Emerald Isle. Neither Sam nor Josh Moffett will start the Trackrod, while Joe McGonigle is also missing.
James Wilson (Hyundai i20 R5) and Garry Jennings (Ford Fiesta R5) will both compete however.
In the Juniors, William Creighton returns after missing the Grampian but won’t have it easy against an in-form Ruairi Bell, series leader Eamonn Kelly and the impressive Kyle White among others.
Garry Pearson looks to be favourite in the National category, but Stephen Petch and Elliot Payne can both count the Trackrod as the closest BRC round to home so could hold an advantage.
Photos courtesy of British Rally Championship