A podium finish on the opening round of the 2017 Prestone MSA British Rally Championship – Brick & Steel Border Counties Rally was the start to the season that the Llandysul based Spencer Sport Rally Team was looking for, when Osian Pryce and his co-driver Dale Furniss battled their way to claim third place in the team’s R5 Fiesta.
Teammates James Williams of Newcastle Emlyn and Phil Hall driving an R2 category Fiesta are chasing the British Junior title this year, but after a promising start, their debut at this level of competition was cut short on Saturday morning.
Starting and finishing in the historic Borders town of Jedburgh, the competition got underway on Friday evening with two stages in Craik Forest. New to their Spencer Sport prepared car, Osian and Dale opted for a cautious start, but even so, set the fifth fastest time.
The second run though the same 6.33-mile stage proved to be a frustrating experience however, when last year’s WRC Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy Champions suffered a puncture. They chose to continue for the remaining four miles to the finish and consequently, lost 40 seconds in the process – a delay that meant they were placed seventh at the overnight halt.
Coincidentally and equally as frustrating, James and Phil picked up a puncture at the same spot, but with just two-wheel-drive at their disposal, they opted to stop and change the wheel, thereby adding around five minutes to their stage time and ending their day eighth in class.
Saturday was to see a further seven stages in Forests to the south and west of Jedburgh. In the slippery and challenging conditions, the relatively clean run through the opening stage by Osian and Dale was just what was needed and, as others faltered, they emerged from SS3 in fourth place.
Resigned to the fact they were unlikely to be standing on the junior podium later in the day, James and Phil were to regard Saturday as a learning exercise. However, their period of education did not reach its full term and another puncture on stage three was shortly followed by a slide off the road and onto a tree stump where the Fiesta became terminally lodged.
For Osian and Dale, a second puncture and a broken suspension arm after hitting a rock on the racing line in stage six did little to assist their progress, but with the same solid obstruction causing Scot David Bogie – who was running ahead of them – leave the road and retire, it meant that the two Welshman were elevated to third by the end of the stage.
Fortunately a service halt followed, where the car was quickly restored to its former specification by the Spencer Sport team. Throughout the final loop of three stages Osian and Dale gathered pace, so much so, they set the fastest time on stage eight and in doing so, closed the gap on the two cars ahead of them: fellow Welshman Tom Cave in second and Swedish driver Fredrik Ahlin first.
Taking into account the wet and slippery conditions and with it the first event in the Spencer Sport Fiesta R5 for Osian and Dale, the team were more than satisfied with the outcome. At the finish in Jedburgh, Osian said:
“I’m very happy to have finished on the podium, especially after our second stage puncture. It’s a great start to our BRC campaign.
“It wasn’t the easiest rally for us, and 80% of the time I was getting to grips with the car and the weak link in the chain was the man behind the wheel! The Spencer Sport Fiesta is the best car I’ve ever driven and what I need to do now is make sure I get the best out of it. I was getting quicker mile-by-mile and I was very pleased to have taken a fastest time by the end of the event.”
The team would to thank its partners for their support: Spencer ECA, DMACK Tyres, Hills Ford, Alphera Financial Services, Nicky Grist Motorsports, PIAA UK, Speedline Corse, Atech Racing, Oil 4 Wales, HT Installations, Porter Dodson, Omega Lubricants and West Wales Rally Spares. Thanks also goes to Craig Motors in Hawick for their help before the event.
Photos courtesy: Jacob Ebrey Photographic/BRC