Chesterfield rally star Rhys Yates continued to level his learning curve at the sport’s highest level with another superb, points-paying finish in the World Rally Championship.
Despite horribly mixed conditions on what was the mildest ever running of the WRC’s winter round, the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team driver came within 7.7 seconds of equalling his stunning, season-opening fourth place in WRC 2 at last month’s Monte Carlo Rally.
Rhys arrived in a partly frozen Scandinavia on the back of a strong podium finish at the start of his 2020 British Rally Championship campaign (Cambrian Rally, Llandudno, February 8). He continued that momentum in Sweden.
While Rhys and co-driver succeeded in delivering another surefooted, pacey drive, the event started with a day of learning on the opening loop of stages.
A set-up mistake on the pre-event test – run in very different conditions to the event – sent Rhys in the wrong direction with the car.
“We had the car set-up too stiff,” said Rhys. “This worked really well on the test, but it just wasn’t right on day one. It made the car nervous in the high speed and short on traction in the lower speed corners. It’s fair to say Friday was a bit of a difficult day.
“We came back to service on Friday, watched some onboards and worked with the engineers to soften the car and, basically, take it in a different direction.”
The M-Sport Ford World Rally Team worked closely with Rhys’ own RYR team to make changes to the car.
It worked perfectly.
Rhys said: “We softened the car, that gave us traction and it gave me confidence to push much harder. That was really satisfying, we got the changes right and the speed just came through Saturday. I’ve got to say a big thanks to the team for helping me work that one out. It’s fantastic to be in the car, taking confidence and really able to lean on it and make it work. We really hit the sweet spot.
“It was a bit disappointing to miss out on fourth, but we take points and a lot of confidence moving forward.
“Everything was a bit more difficult here. We came to Sweden for the first time last year, but the experience we took from that event didn’t really mean anything this time around when all the snow and ice had gone and Sunday’s final stage was run in the pouring rain. This is positive for me, we go away from here with more time in the car and a really clear picture of how to go even quicker.”