The Motorsport UK British Rally Championship will make a return to the iconic Dalby forest for the first time since 2013, as the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire 24-25 September hosts round four of Britain’s premier rally series.
With stages draped in history from across the decades, the super-fast Yorkshire forests will provide the longest gravel encounter of the season, with 56 hard fought miles lying in wait for the British Championship protagonists.
And the challenge gets tougher still for the top-shelf competitors, as the well-known Dalby complex is set to host a spectacular 11-mile blast under the cover of darkness on Friday night to open proceedings.
The battle for supremacy on the six-test event will be as intense as ever, with this year’s BRC title fight thrown wide open as the championship steps over the mid-point of the season. From the seven rounds in store this season, the BRC has ticked off three so far and has seen a different winner standing on the top step of the podium on each event.
Leading the championship charge is Chesterfield based M-Sport pilot Rhys Yates. With James Morgan in the co-drivers seat, Yates has yet to win a round of the BRC in his established career, but consistency behind the wheel of his Michelin-shod Ford Fiesta Rally2 this season has seen him take a slender one-point lead heading to the English forests.
“It’s great to get some solid points on the board this year,” says Yates, adding, “But I really must stop just being ‘Mr Consistent’”.
He went on, “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. That’s certainly the plan in Yorkshire”.
Friday night’s opener will add a unique dimension to the rally, but the championship leader isn’t fazed by the prospect.
“We all love a stage in the dark, don’t we? I haven’t actually done one for quite a while now so it will be great to get back into it and I`m well up for that to be honest. It could throw up some surprises I`d say. Essentially the game plan is maximum attack; the fight is on and I want my first win”.
But Yates will have a gaggle of championship challengers aiming to unseat him from the top of the standings by Saturday night and leading that battle will be Matt Edwards and Darren Garrod at number one seeds.
Edwards, a double British champion, will aim to put the heartache of his last-minute Grampian Forest Stages retirement out of his mind and bring his Melvyn Evans Motorsport Volkswagen Polo GTi back into play.
The Pirelli-backed machine could well be the perfect weapon of choice for the super-fast Yorkshire tests, but Edwards’ previous experience on these stages in historic machinery could also be a distinct advantage.
|Matt continues to be busy between BRC rounds with his professional driving coaching operation, with his ability to tutor from the co-driver’s seat a skill which is in high demand.|
Aoife Raftery is the latest driver to benefit from this, with her improving stage times on last weekend’s Bushwhacker Rally in Northern Ireland, with Matt navigating and coaching, clear for all to see.
“I’m confident going into the Trackrod Rally that everything has been fixed with the car and the issues that we had last time out on the Grampian are well and truly behind us,” says Matt.
“We’ve changed the engine wiring loom and everything that you’d associate with a misfire, so I don’t think Melvyn [Evans] could have done more to fix the problem. We gave the Polo a shakedown in Bala last week. It was an asphalt test ahead of Mull, and we ran in the dark to test for both Mull and the Trackrod and everything worked well, so I have no reason to doubt things won’t be perfect from now on.
“I’m not sure if my recent experience of the North Yorkshire stages in a Fiat 131 Abarth will be a help or a hinderance. It’s given me a good feel for the area and I know where the bad bumps are in an historic car, but you probably won’t even feel those bumps in a Polo GTI R5.
“I’ve never done the Trackrod in such a capable four-wheel drive car and I’ve never done a recce of the stages either, so making good pace notes will be even more vital this time around. With most of the event single use, there will be no opportunity to amend the notes either, so they have to be perfect right from the word go.
“We certainly need a successful weekend. 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.”
The famous Trackrod Motor Club-organised event starts on Friday 24 September with 11.3 stage miles run in the dark through Dalby forest. The remaining 44.89 stage miles takes place in the daylight on Saturday 25 September on single use forest roads, with stages through Dalby and Cropton forests. The service area is located at the Filey Brigg Country Park, while the first car is expected to arrive at the finish in the seaside town of Filey at around 15.00.
|Welshman Osian Pryce is Yates’ closest challenger and also has the honour of winning the Trackrod on its last BRC encounter in 2013.|
Then driving a Citroen DS3, he will undoubtedly call on that experience of the forests to ensure he continues his momentum this season. Guided by Noel O’ Sullivan, Pryce has taken his Melvyn Evans Polo GTi to a podium spot on every round in 2021, although a win has so far eluded him.
Osian Pryce will arrive at the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire in a tremendously strong position in the British Rally Championship – being the only driver to have finished on the podium on all three previous rounds and, despite not having played his bonus points scoring Joker, he is just one point behind the leader at the top of the drivers’ standings.
He is also a past winner of the event, having scored victory there in 2013 (driving a Citroën DS3 R3) which was the last time the Trackrod hosted a round of the BRC. He also narrowly missed out on winning the year before, when a tiebreak decider went against him by just 0.1 seconds!
Third on both this year’s Neil Howard and Nicky Grist Stages and second on the Grampian Rally has given the 28-year old Machynlleth born driver a strong start to the series.
Equipped with a new rear differential and other set-up changes for the Trackrod, Osian is feeling ever more at home in the Melvyn Evans Motorsport-prepared Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 and says that the best is yet to come.
With three podiums to his name, there is no doubt that Osian and co-driver Noel O’Sullivan, who leads the BRC co-drivers’ standings, will be pushing for victory as they return to the super-fast North Yorkshire forests.
“Things have gone pretty well so far in the first half of this season and we’re pleased to be in such a strong position in the British Rally Championship after three rounds,” said Osian.