Chesterfield rally driver Rhys Yates overcame a time zapping trip into the scenery, to finish 13th in the WRC2 category of last weekend’s FIA World Rally Championship qualifier, Rally de Espana (25th – 28th October).
The 26-year-old has enjoyed a busy season in the sport and just a few weeks previously, took a Roman Kresta Racing Skoda Fabia R5 to sixth FIA European Rally Championship Under 28 Junior at Rally Liepāja in Latvia. Yates and co-driver Elliott Edmondson would head to Spain without the pressure of a championship to fight for and would aim for a top result in the event.
Rally Spain offers a unique twist in comparison to many other rallies in the calendar, thanks to a mixed surface with the opening day held on gravel and the following two days held on asphalt. Yates has enjoyed success on both surfaces this season, but the difficult nature of the Spanish stages would mean a top result was not guaranteed.
After Thursday’s opening stage around the streets of Barcelona, Yates would settle nicely into the gravel surface of the first leg of the rally, setting a string of top 25 overall stage times to move into an impressive 22nd overall and 11th in the WRC2 category.
Saturday’s stages proved to be the hardest of the weekend thanks to torrential rain in the region making the super-fast asphalt roads unpredictable thanks to the gravel being pulled out onto the racing line by the front-running crews. Sadly on the Savalla test, Yates slid wide on a corner and got wedged in the scenery.
Just four stages remained on the final day and the Skoda pilot was able to relax and enjoy the tests in front of a packed Spanish crowd to cross the finish ramp and secure another World Rally Championship result.
“Of course it’s a little disappointing to lose all that time on Saturday but you have to look at the bigger picture and not focus on one stage,” said Yates
“Our pace was pretty good all weekend and being consistent on WRC events is so very important. The stage times were good considering these guys are the best in the business so to come here and be there or thereabouts is really encouraging for the future. I know we have more work to do, but it’s important that I know where that extra speed can come from and it makes me want to work harder and harder to find it. It was a difficult rally for everyone and we just need to bring everything together to get the result as well as the speed”.
Yates will now hand over the keys to the Skoda to brother James.
“The WRC2 category is where we need to be next season but we are a long way off deciding that right now. Its been a fantastic year in the Skoda, so I`m going to relax a little and let “JJ” have a go next weekend at Oulton Park. He’s pretty quick too so I`ll be in the co-drivers seat to keep an eye on him”.