Prestone MSA British Rally Championship ace Rhys Yates will contest his first FIA World Rally Championship event in mainland Europe this week at Rally RACC Catalunya Rally De España (Rally Spain) (5-8 October).
Just weeks after securing fourth overall in the British Rally Championship (BRC), Yates will turn his attentions to the biggest challenge of his rallying career as he takes on the best drivers in the world in the Costa Daurada based three-day rally.
The Chesterfield driver will pilot the Brettex backed Ford Fiesta R5 which he campaigned in the BRC this season and will be joined by co-driver Alex Lee who assisted in his inaugural podium spot at the Nicky Grist Stages in July.
Yates has also managed to adopt a prestigious WRC2 entry thanks to the Gemini Clinic Rally Team, ensuring he can take advantage of a premium road position.
Yates has enjoyed a successful season in the ultra-competitive UK domestic championship, despite being only his second attempt at the series. Finishing ahead of many more experienced competitors, he bagged the honour of first Englishman home as he continues to progress through the sport.
Making his World Rally Championship debut at Wales Rally GB in 2016, Yates secured a top 35 finish after a tough baptism in the Welsh forests. But thanks to his experience in the BRC since then, Yates feels he his ready to step up to the challenge that an overseas WRC event has to offer.
“I have always wanted to progress my career and standing still was never an option this season,” says Yates.
“We have learnt so much more in the BRC this year, more than any other really and I need to continue to push myself along that path of progression. We looked at many options after the season had finished and Rally Spain immediately caught our eye. It just had to be done”.
Held in Salau, the rally has been dubbed as one of the toughest in the World Rally Championship calendar thanks to its unique mixed surface format. After Thursday night’s ceremonial start, Friday’s stages are predominantly gravel with the second and third legs held entirely on asphalt ending with the Santa Marina Power Stage on Sunday afternoon.
But the surface change is not phasing Yates one bit.
“It’s just like the Nicky Grist Stages, but much bigger,” he says.
“We have coped well with adapting to the change from gravel to asphalt this season in the BRC so that doesn’t concern me at all. The stages themselves and everything else that goes with a WRC event will be more of a challenge really. This will be a huge test, not only for me but the car and the team, but it’s one I feel I am more than ready for. I genuinely can’t wait for this opportunity”.
Yates is backed in 2017 by Michelin, Protyre, Kick Motorsport, Simpson, Zenith Racing, Prestone, Draper Tools, Jordan Road Surfacing and NGK Spark Plugs.
He also receives grateful support from a number of local businesses including H&F PES, Maun Motors, MFA, Calow Lane MOT Centre, The Mobility Shop, Glazebrook Transport, Woodleigh Motor Sales, Juice Motorsport and Clear Edge Filtration Group.
Image credit – Jakob Ebrey Photography