For his 14th birthday present, Osian Pryce spent the day driving an Escort Mk2 and now, 11 years and 13 FIA World Rally Championship outings later, he’s about to drive one of the iconic rally cars on an event for the first time, when he contests his local Rally North Wales on Saturday.
Co-driven by Dale Furniss, Pryce will drive a full historic-spec rear-wheel drive BDA-engined Escort Mk2, from Suffolk-based specialists RallyXtreme. It couldn’t be more different from the state-of-the-art four-wheel drive Hills Ford Fiesta R5 that the 25-year-old local driver won Rally North Wales in last year, as the current leader of the Pirelli MSA Welsh Rally Championship returns to the series for a bit of sideways fun.
Osian, pictured above and left in the Escort, said, “The first rally car I ever drove was a Mk2 Escort. It was owned by my father and grandfather, it was nothing like the build quality and power of the RallyXtreme car that I’ll use on Rally North Wales of course, and driving it was my fourteenth birthday present!
Apart from driving a Tuthill Porsche as a rally driving instructor at the Below Ice Driving Experience in Sweden I haven’t driven a rear-wheel drive car since, so it’s all going to be a little bit alien and a new challenge.
“We’re doing the rally for a bit of fun, as it’s my local event. The route has been changed slightly this year, so one of the stages comes within 150 yards of my parent’s house – which is the closest it’s been for a number of years. It literally couldn’t get any closer to the front door, so it was an event I really couldn’t miss.
“There are some very good and experienced drivers competing in the MSA British Historic Rally Championship, so if we can get close to them towards the end of the event I’ll be really happy. But it’s all about going out and having some sideways fun, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Osian contested the recent Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally as a late entry in a Spencer Sport Mitsubishi Mirage R5 and scored maximum points in the Pirelli MSA Welsh Rally Championship. He isn’t contesting the whole series, but with the Mid-Wales Stages postponed because of the snow, Osian finds himself still leading the championship heading into Rally North Wales.
Osian is supported by G&M Pryce Ltd, Pirelli, Steve Harkness Competition Tyres, Hills Ford and Sport Wales, and is an MSA Academy driver.
The North Wales Rally Services-sponsored Rally North Wales is organised by Wolverhampton and South Staffordshire Car Club and consists of 45 gravel stage miles in Dyfi and Gartheiniog forests. The event gets underway from Dolgellau at 08.30 on Saturday 24 March and finishes at 17.30.
Check out Osian’s new Facebook website: osianpryce.com
With the second round of the 2018 Pirelli MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship, the Grooms Garage Mid Wales Stages, postponed due to weather conditions, this weekend’s North Wales Rally Services Rally North Wales offers competitors their second chance to score points in the series, writes Peter Hughes.
The opening round, the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally, saw Osian Pryce and co-driver Dale Furniss pick up maximum points in the overall championship. Behind the wheel of a four-wheel drive Mitsubishi Mirage for that season opener, this weekend they have opted to take on the massed ranks of two-wheel drive machinery in a Mark 2 Ford Escort.
Dylan Davies is currently six points behind Pryce and he and co-driver Llion Williams, both from Lampeter, will be looking to close the gap to the top of the table in their Subaru Impreza.
Driving another four wheel-drive Impreza, Andy Davies, who missed the Cambrian will be keen to get his Championship challenge underway. The Bryncrug driver will be teamed up with co-driver Max Freeman in a Subaru Impreza.
Freeman, from Stafford, was 2016 Champion junior co-driver and 2017 Group N Champion co-driver. He took outright victory on the Cambrian Rally alongside Derbyshire driver Ollie Mellors, but the team were ineligible for Championship points.
Former Group N Champions Paul Davy and Roger Allen took the honours among the less modified cars in round 1. Their challengers this weekend will include Wug Utting and Bob Stokoe who were absent from the Cambrian. Like Andy Davies, Surrey driver Utting led the overall Championship standings for part of last season.
Interest in the two-wheel drive category of the Championship continues to grow with nearly forty Championship contenders scheduled to cross the start ramp on Saturday morning. John Rowlands leads the two-wheel drive standings. He and co-driver Glenn Latham took top honours on the Cambrian in their Escort following a late puncture for the Hillman Avenger of John’s brother Ieuan, partnered by Emyr Hall. With Osian Pryce in contention for two-wheel drive points other Escort mounted crews include Rudi Lancaster and Guy Weaver and Norfolk pairing David and James Young.
Others to watch out for include the distinctive Fiat 131 of Barry Jordan and Paul Wakely while Brynmor Pierce and Alan Jones opt for front wheel-drive in their Ford Fiesta ST. 2017 two-wheel drive champions Andrew and Jamie-Lee Fox will be continuing the defence of their title in their venerable BMW 325i while Worcester’s Colin Griffiths will be out in his BMW Compact.
The RAVENOL Welsh Challenge is a new addition to the Championship this season and is open to competitors who have not previously finished in the top 10 overall on a Championship round. Matthew Hirst and co-driver Declan Dear currently top the standings in their Mitsubishi Evo IX
With an array of classic North Wales stages ahead of them for a second time this season, a strong line up of Championship contenders face a challenge worthy of Wales’s premier Rally Championship as they head away from the Dolgellau start.
With two-wheel drive cars leaving the start-line at Gwyndaf Evans Motors from 7.30am and four-wheel drive heading out from the town’s Farmers’ Market from 1.20pm, spectators will have the chance to view the action in both the Geoff Jones Motorsport Big Ray stage and in “Tim Hobbs” Gartheiniog.