Chesterfield driver Rhys Yates starts the opening round of the 2020 British Rally Championship (BRC) next week. And he starts it with one aim: to win.
The 27-year-old has already conquered the English Rally Championship, winning that in 2015, but now he wants to equal his father John’s achievement and wear the British crown at the end of the six-round series in September.
The opening round of the BRC is the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally (February 8).
“Dad won a British Championship on motorbikes,” said Rhys, “and I think it would make a nice story if we could match his achievement on two wheels with a similar one on four [wheels]. That’s the plan, anyway.”
Rhys has finished fourth in the standings the last twice he’s contested BRC (2017/18). Since then he stepped up to the World Rally Championship, learning the ropes last season before joining the British-based world beaters M-Sport Ford World Rally Team for his first year in a factory squad.
The Ford Fiesta R5 Mk II Rhys will drive in North Wales is prepared by M-Sport, but will be run by his own RYR team. This is only Rhys’ second outing in the Fiesta R5 Mk II, having spent the previous two years driving a Škoda. He belied a lack of knowledge of the car and emerged from a baptism of fire on a treacherous Monte Carlo Rally with a superb fourth in the WRC 2 class. But now it’s all eyes on Britain.
“I felt there was unfinished business with the British Rally Championship,” said Rhys. “Don’t get me wrong, the time was right for me to step up to the WRC and we had a great start in Monte Carlo, where I took loads of experience and started to feel more at home in the new car. But I’m so chuffed to get another crack at the British title.
“Fortunately the British rounds fit in nicely around the world rounds we’re going to be doing, so we’ve got time to make it happen this season. Much as competing on the world stage is important – and it is, that’s where my future lies, hopefully – there’s something special about competing at home. The BRC has really helped me in my career and I want to give something back by going and supporting the organisers and trying to win the title.”
Rhys knows the competition for a British title previously won by such legends of the sport as Colin McRae, Richard Burns and Ari Vatanen will be fierce this season.
“It will be tough,” he added, “there’s no doubting that at all. Look at the names on the trophy, look at the former winners – they don’t give this thing away. You have to earn it. That’s what we’re going to be trying to do this season.
“The Cambrian Rally is a great event. It uses similar roads to Wales Rally GB (Britain’s WRC round) and is based in the same town of Llandudno, so this will be a good test for us when we come back for Rally GB at the end of October.”