Osian Pryce is just one step away from becoming British Rally Champion for the first time as he leads the drivers’ standings heading into the final round of the series, the Modern Tyres Ulster Rally on Saturday.
Having finished on the podium in all six rallies this year, including winning last time out on the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally and a maximum bonus BRC Joker points score on the Mull Rally, had it not been for the points scoring system where only the best five scores from seven rounds count, Osian would be almost assured of the title.
Instead, he will arrive at the final round with an eight-point advantage having already dropped a third-place score, with another maximum points scoring finish guaranteeing him the title.
However, if neither he nor his Melvyn Evans Motorsport team-mate Matt Edwards finish first in the BRC classification, then Osian could finish behind his rival and still win the title.
If successful, his navigator Noel O’Sullivan would be crowned BRC co-drivers’ champion for the first time as well.
Whilst this will be Osian’s sixth Ulster Rally start, he hasn’t contested the event since 2017. Since then the event has moved from the northwest to the southeast of Northern Ireland, meaning that all the stages on this year’s route will be completely new to him.
But with two wins, two seconds and two thirds, Osian arrives at this year’s Ulster Rally on stunning form – and doesn’t feel that the unfamiliar stages will be too much of a disadvantage in his Michelin-shot Volkswagen.
“Now that I’m feeling more comfortable driving the Polo GTI and I’m confident that we’ll be able to start the event with a good set up and balance, I’m really looking forward to the Ulster Rally more than any other event that we’ve gone to this year,” says Osian.
“Winning last time out on the Cambrian was a great confidence boost. I’ll have to employ the same tactic again and try to make a good start on the Ulster because in recent years a large chuck of the time gained has been on the opening loop of stages.
It’s the most straightforward final round scenario that Matt Edwards has ever faced as he aims for nothing less than maximum British Rally Championship points on the event to secure a record-breaking third straight drivers’ title.
The Yuasa Rally Team Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 pilot has already won two rounds this year, the Nicky Grist Stages and Trackrod Rally Yorkshire, but with two scores from seven rounds to drop, only another maximum points haul will add another BRC drivers’ title to the ones he won in 2018 and 2019.
And if he achieved it, the result would give Darren Garrod the co-drivers’ title for a second time, after he won the trophy navigating for Matt in 2018.
In addition to Matt’s two victories this year, equally impressive has been his incredible emergency repair efforts which saw him fight back from last to second on the Mull Rally and then score vital points last time out on the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally – both of which have kept his title hopes alive.
Whilst Matt’s two BRC victories have come on gravel this year he was the fastest driver on Mull, breaking four stage records on his first start there in his Yuasa Battery, TPS and Swift Group-backed Polo R5.
Matt also has a very good record on the Ulster Rally – winning the BRC section and finishing second overall (to Craig Breen) on his last appearance in 2019 and winning the event overall in 2018, both times driving a Ford Fiesta R5.
Another fast and hopefully trouble-free run this time in his Pirelli-shod Melvyn Evans Motorsport-run Polo GTI R5 would put Matt into the BRC history books as the only driver to win the series three times in a row and overtake two time title winners like Colin McRae, Ari Vatanen, David Llewellin and Russell Brookes and join Mark Higgins as a three time winner of the series.
“It’s the most straightforward final round of the British Rally Championship that I’ve ever had, as I’ve got to go and win it,” says Matt.
“There are no variables, no ifs and buts – it’s a case of maximum points or nothing.”