Britain’s Rhys Yates was on the podium in the Cambrian Rally, the opening round of the 2020 British Rally Championship last weekend. But, now Yates is focused on the world stage as he competes in this week’s Rally Sweden for FIA World Rally Championship-2.
The Ford Fiesta R5 MkII driver flew north to Torsby for Rally Sweden and the second round of his world championship campaign after his impressive start to the year in the BRC.
Yates is blending his second season in the FIA World Rally Championship with a shot at home glory as he looks to land a British title in 2020.
As well as potential home rule, competing in the BRC ensures Rhys more experience of the rally car in preparation for competing around the globe in this year’s WRC-2 series. His first round of WRC-2 netted him a solid fourth place at last month’s Monte Carlo Rally.
Talking about Saturday’s result and his first time driving the Fiesta in this specification, Yates said: “One of the priorities for this year’s BRC rounds was to be able to get out of the blocks quicker. These British rallies are a bit shorter than the world events, so you’ve got to be at it from the first corner and that’s not always been my strongest characteristic as a driver.
“On the first stage in Wales, I was right there. I went in with good aggression and really ready to stick it to them. My head was in the right place and I pushed pretty hard.
“I think I started to think about things a bit more in the second stage and maybe I wasn’t attacking quite as hard, we dropped a few seconds and then I spun and stalled at a junction in stage three.
“I got it going, but stalled again, it was all a bit frantic for a moment – I’d say we dropped at least 15 to 20 seconds. Suddenly we came out of stage three and we were half a minute off the front.“
The Chesterfield star added: “I was a bit disappointed with that, but the good thing is that I know where the time went. Through the afternoon, the times were good again, but by then I was aware we had third and some solid points waiting at the finish.
“It’s kind of mixed emotions really. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased, we’ve put a result down, but I felt there was more to come if we could have stuck at that stage one speed and not had the spin in stage three.
“Look, shoulda woulda, coulda. We’re here with points, a good start and a good way into Sweden.”
The big positive for Rhys moving forward is the feeling in the car ahead of Rally Sweden, which starts from Karlstad on Thursday evening. He is confident going into the second round if the WRC-2 season: “One thing which I’m really pleased with is the feeling in the car. I’ve never felt more comfortable with a car on a gravel rally than I did with the Fiesta in Wales. It was so good.
“The pace was pretty quick at times – and it will be this week in Sweden – so you’ve got to be comfortable with the car moving about underneath you. You’ve got to be comfortable with it going sideways in fifth gear. I got that feeling in Wales and that’s great for me.
“I want to hit the ground running in Sweden. We’ve got a test on Tuesday and then the rally starts Thursday. One thing I’m so chuffed with is how much time I’m getting in the car.
“By the time Sweden starts I’ll have been in this Fiesta four times in a week – I’ve never had that much seat time before and that can only be good for the confidence.”
Conditions for Rally Sweden have been far from ideal with a much reduced route, just over 100 miles in length. Much of the rally will actually be held in Norway due to the weather which will mean the winter element will be missed for most of the WRC round:
“There’s not a lot of snow and ice on the roads,” said Rhys. “We go across the border into Norway for some stages which are at a higher altitude and latitude and the roads there are a bit better. Let’s see what we get.
“It’s a shame because when you have minus 20, full snow and ice, you can really play with the car and use the snowbanks to go – sometimes – a gear higher than you normally would. We won’t have those this week.”
Rally Sweden gets underway on Thursday and despite the shortened route, the 11 schedule stages will make for an exciting rally.