Fredrik Ahlin won the fifth round of the 2017 Prestone MSA British Rally Championship, The Nicky Grist Stages, as championship leader Osain Pryce suffered a heartbreaking mechanical issue on Sunday afternoon.
Ahlin, who took his third win of the season inherited the lead from Pryce on stage 12 when the fuel pump failed on the Spencer Sport Ford Fiesta R5 resulting in the Welsh driver being forced to retire on his home event.
The duo at the front of the field were seemingly set to have another showdown for top honours before Pryce’s retirement; the 19.3 second lead that Pryce had over Ahlin had shrunk to just 8.1 seconds before disaster struck for and the Swedish driver was able to take advantage and maintain his now large lead margin over the course of the remaining eight stages.
Ahlin said on his victory: “It’s been a rough patch since the Pirelli (International), so it’s nice to get back to winning ways. It looks like we have a strong lead in the championship over Osian now. It was a shame to see him retire, but unfortunately that is part of the game.”
“We have really worked hard on our Tarmac performance and I am very confident for the rest for the championship as I now know I can fight for wins on all surfaces.”
Behind Ahlin in second was Matt Edwards who took the runner up spot on the podium for the second event in succession with another fine performance. Ever consistent over the weekend and with several stage wins, the youngster who was another driver on home soil in Wales and showed he can be a force to be reckoned with for the remainder of this season.
The battle for third was close throughout the weekend, with Edwards and Keith Cronin battling for the final podium place before Pryce’s issue further up the leaderboard. However, stage 12 was again a stage to forget for another driver, this time Cronin, and in his pursuit of catching Edwards pushed too hard and put his M-Sport Fiesta into a ditch and out of the event.
With both Pryce and Cronin hitting trouble and retiring, this meant that the last place on the podium went to Rhys Yates, who finished just 3.7 seconds ahead of Martin McCormack in fourth and as a result becomes the eighth different driver to finish on the BRC podium this season.
The Prestone Motorsport News Junior BRC class had a familiar finishing order with the top three all in the same positions as two weeks ago in Belgium, with Callum Devine taking the win in the Opel Adam R2 ahead of William Creighton and James Williams.
Overnight in Wales it was Cameron Davies who led the class and was seemingly on for a fairy-tale result after a large crash in Belgium a fortnight ago almost called time on his career.
The possibility of the win was short lived however as the Peugeot 208’s engine hit trouble on Sunday morning and Davies was forced to retire from the event on the first stage of the tarmac section on day two.
With Devine’s preferred tarmac greeting the crews on the second day of action, the Ypres winner was able to take advantage and grab the lead on stage 11 and went on to win by 18.6 seconds ahead of Creighton.
With Williams in third, Marty Gallagher took fourth and local driver Meirion Evans finished fifth with four out of the five finishers all to have led the class during the event.
Despite retiring from the event on day one, Josh Cornwell managed to come back under SuperRally rules and claim the BRC Cadet championship win as Alex Waterman took the victory in Wales.
Cornwell was able to clinch the title with two rounds to spare as his only other championship challenger, Tom Williams, suffered a rally ending mechanical failure on stage 16 and that meant that Cornwell can’t be caught in the race for the class championship.
With Cornwell only managing to take third this weekend, the victory went to Waterman and broke Cornwell’s 2017 unbeaten run. Nabila Tejpar took second in her Ford Fiesta R2T.
Finally, although both David White and William Hill in the BRC4 and National Rally Cup classes respectively were the only competitors in each class this weekend, both drivers were able to finish the event and took strong finishes with Hill in 12th and White in 13th overall.
Round six of the 2017 Prestone MSA British Rally Championship is the John Mulholland Motors Ulster Rally between August 18-19.