Chesterfield rally star Rhys Yates will take on the cream of European rallying when he tackles next week’s Renties Ypres Rally in Belgium.
Heading back across the English Channel brings happy memories for the 27-year-old, who re-wrote British rallying history last year when he edged a whole host of locals to become the first Brit ever to win Rally van Wervik in Belgium.
But it’s all eyes on Ypres next week and the ŠKODA Fabia R5 driver is determined to build on his success and experience from 2018.
Rhys said: “Winning van Wervik was a great result for me and it gave me good confidence going into Ypres which followed quickly afterwards. But… when I got to Ypres, the approach I took to the rally was completely wrong. I tried to win the event on every stage and in pretty much every corner.
“We went off on the first corner, then crashed a few more times as well.
“I’ve learned from that and next week the approach will be very different. Of course I want to show speed, but at the same time I want to be much more consistent.”
Based out of the historic city of Ypres, the all-Tarmac event poses one of the biggest challenges in all of rallying. Especially if it rains. The asphalt lanes in the province of West Flanders are tricky enough in the dry, but they’re seriously slippery when wet.
Oddly, Rhys is hoping for a drop of rain.
He explains: “I’ve done Ypres three times now. The law of average says it’s going to rain this time and that would be really good for experience and for working to find the best possible set-up for the car.”
The reason Rhys would be happy with the rain is that, as part of his programme of World Rally Championship events, he will compete at the next Tarmac WRC round: ADAC Rallye Deutschland in August.
It almost always rains where the rally’s based, in the German lake district and the experience from a wet Belgium would be invaluable a couple of months on in Bostalsee.
As well as being an opportunity to gain more experience of the car, Ypres is also a round of the British Rally Championship – Rhys’ home series which he is keen to support this season.
“The focus is definitely on WRC 2 for us,” said Rhys, “but I said at the start of this year that I would like to do as much BRC as possible. We finished second on the last round (the Pirelli International Rally, Carlisle, April 27) and it’ll be interesting to see how we get on against those guys.
“In all honesty, it’ll be interesting to see how we go against everybody. There’s a really strong entry for Ypres, lots of good quality R5 cars and top drivers. It would be great to be looking for a podium, but a top-five finish might be more sensible given that we’re going to be doing a little bit of testing and working with the tyres with Germany in mind.
“To be honest, Ypres is a such a good event I can’t wait to get cracking. Right from the start of the recce, the atmosphere about the place is just fantastic. It starts with the qualifying stage on Thursday night and the main rally starts Friday lunchtime and runs through until Saturday night. It’s a tough, non-stop format, but it’s a real buzz.”
Rhys’ preparations for Renties Ypres Rally get underway with a pre-event test in Belgium on Monday (June 24) and a two-day recce of the stages on Wednesday and Thursday. The first competitive action kicks off with the qualifying stage – which will dictate the running order of the rally – at 2000 on Thursday June 27.
Date of birth: 06.05.92
Co-driver: James Morgan
First rally: 2013 (Alan Healy Memorial Stages, 4thin class Suzuki Swift)
English Rally Champion, 2015
British Rally Championship, 4th2016/2017
First Briton to win Rally van Wervik (Belgium), 2018
About Renties Ypres Rally
Competitive distance: 172.67 miles (277.88km)
Total distance: 338.36 miles (544.52km)
Renties Ypres Rallyitinerary
Friday June 28
SS1 Zonnebeke 9.48km (5.89 miles) 1649
SS2 Hollebeke 1 8.50km (5.28 miles) 1714
SS3 Mesen 1 7.67km (4.76 miles) 1732
SS4 Wijtschate 1 12.35km (7.67 miles) 1752
SS5 Kemmelberg 1 13.09km (8.13 miles) 1815
Service Ypres 1845
SS6 Hollebeke 2 8.50km (5.28 miles) 2025
SS7 Mesen 2 7.67km (4.76 miles) 2043
SS8 Wijtschate 2 12.35km (7.67 miles) 2103
SS9 Kemmelberg 2 13.09km (8.13 miles) 2126
Service Ypres 2205
Saturday June 29
SS10 Dikkebus 1 12.53km (7.78 miles) 1009
SS11 Westouter-Boeschepe 1 20.33km (12.63 miles) 1027
SS12 Zillebeke 1 14.37km (8.92 miles) 1114
Service Ypres 1140
SS13 Langemark 1 8.65km (5.37 miles) 1305
SS14 Reninge 1 11.82km (7.34 miles) 1331
SS15 Vieteren 1 10.87km (6.75 miles) 1354
SS16 Watou 1 14.02km (8.71 miles) 1418
Service Ypres 1458
SS17 Dikkebus 2 12.53km (7.78 miles) 1618
SS18 Westouter-Boeschepe 2 20.33km (12.63 miles) 1636
SS19 Zillebeke 2 14.37km (8.92 miles) 1723
SS20 Langemark 2 8.65km (5.37 miles) 1914
SS21 Reninge 2 11.82km (7.34 miles) 1940
SS22 Vieteren 2 10.87km (6.75 miles) 2003
SS23 Watou 2 14.02km (8.71 miles) 2027
Finish Ypres 2130