Rhys Yates will chase a maiden British Rally Championship win at next week’s West Cork Rally in Ireland (March 13-15).
The Chesterfield star is combining his assault on this year’s World Rally Championship – where he drives for the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team in the WRC2 class – with the pursuit of the biggest prize in British rallying.
Driving his Ford Fiesta R5 MkII, Rhys made a solid start to his British campaign with third place on last month’s Cambrian Rally in Wales. But as he heads west and across the Irish Sea, he’s only got eyes for the podium’s top step.
“I know it’s going to be hard,” said the 27-year-old of the BRC schedule’s first asphalt outing. “I know the competition’s going to be really tough over there, but I think we’ve got the speed to win. I’ve never competed in Ireland before, but last time we were in Northern Ireland for the Ulster Rally, we were leading and right in the thick of the fight for the win when we got a puncture.
“I’m up for it. It’s going to be a great weekend. I’ve watched some of the footage of the event and the roads look superb, really fast and flowing – just the sort of stages I love.”
As well as the competition, Rhys is looking forward to the special atmosphere which envelops Irish rallying – especially on St. Patrick’s weekend.
Rhys added: “St Patrick’s day is the Tuesday after we come home, but I’m told next weekend will be a special one to be in Ireland. I’ve heard so much about the passion and the atmosphere on events like West Cork, I can’t wait to get out there and meet some of the fans, then get into the lanes and entertain them.”
Seeded at car 11, Rhys is aware the weather could impact on his chances on the first loop of the stages. He added: “If it’s really wet, we might suffer a bit running further back on the road – the more cars that pass, the dirtier the road gets. But that’s fair enough. I didn’t do the event last year and the guys ahead of me all did well and are really good drivers. Let’s see what happens. I’m not thinking about that at all, I just want to get out there and crack on.”
The West Cork Rally gets underway with a ceremonial start in Clonakilty on Friday March 13 (2000), with the first of two loops of two stages underway at 0930 on Saturday. Day one’s eight stages total 68.60 miles. Sunday provides an even sterner challenge with six longer stages adding up to 69.09 miles. The finish is back in Clonakilty at 1645.