It was a magnificent double celebration for the Spencer Sport team of Llandysul in the Ypres Rally, with both its drivers scoring podium results on their first appearance in the Belgian event: Ceredigion based driver Osian Pryce and co-driver Dale Furniss have now taken the lead in the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship standings after finishing a magnificent 3rd, while team-mates James Williams from Newcastle Emlyn and Dai Roberts also finished on the podium in the BRC Junior category.
On his ever first Tarmac rally in an R5 specification car, Osian and co-driver Dale Furniss maintained an incredibly fast and consistent pace in their Hills Ford/Alphera FS Fiesta R5 over the super-fast West Flanders roads, to maintain their record of finishing every round of the 2017 BRC so far (that’s four out of four) on the podium.
The two-day, 20-stage event began in dramatic fashion with BRC rivals Fredrik Åhlin, David Bogie, Marty McCormack and Alex Laffey all crashing on day one. Even Belgium’s top rally star Thierry Neuville rolled into a field, highlighting how difficult the very fast, dusty and slippery narrow asphalt roads can be. Having driven well and worked on fine-tuning the car’s set-up, Osian finished the first day a solid 5th in the BRC.
Leg 2 was almost twice as long as the previous opening day of action and, within Saturday’s first five stages, the 24-year old Ceredigion driver had moved up to 3rd. Although it was a very long and challenging day, as the final stages were played out in twilight, Osian continued his inch-perfect performance right to the end. Two 2nds and now two 3rd place results give Osian 66 points in the BRC drivers’ standings – overhauling Åhlin who is now second on 63 points.
“I’m over the moon to come away from the Ypres Rally with third place and my fourth consecutive podium finish in the British Rally Championship,” said Osian. “The event didn’t start well for us and to be honest we struggled a little, but the amount we’ve learnt is absolutely massive. It’s great to take part in an event like this, with all the spectators and atmosphere. My first Tarmac rally in an R5 car was always going to be a big challenge, but with thanks to the Spencer Sport team and with Dale alongside me, we were confident by the end. We now head to the Nicky Grist Stages as championship leaders. That is very special, and I cannot wait for my home event in two weeks time.”
Like his team-mate, James Williams was also making his Ypres Rally debut – and at just 19-years of age was determined to gain the maximum amount of experience from contesting one of mainland Europe’s most famous rallies for the first time. The Newcastle Emlyn teenager finished the opening day in 3rd position, but dropped to 6th when an engine mount broke on his HT Installations/West Wales Rally Spares Fiesta R2T, sending the car temporarily off the road.
James and Dai fought back brilliantly – setting two 2nd fastest stage times (SS15 and 16) to climb back to 4th and ultimately take a well-deserved 3rd placed podium finish by the end of the 160 stage mile event.
“What a fantastic rally,” said James. “I’m delighted to have come away with third BRC Junior and first Ford home in class in Ypres at only 19-years old. What a rollercoaster of rally and an incredible experience.
“We had some seriously difficult moments, but in the end we fought on to set some top two times against far more experienced competitors in our class. I’m absolutely delighted for myself, the team and for everyone who has supported me from the start – this one’s for you all! Now it’s time to enjoy some champagne and enjoy the moment!”
At the finish, Spencer Sport team manager Charlie Jukes said: “It was great to get both cars to the finish of such a tough event – both with podium finishes – and to leave Belgium leading the British Rally Championship. Osian drove consistently well throughout, on what was his first Tarmac rally in an R5 car. That result and championship lead will no doubt boost his confidence, as he heads straight to Rally Poland for his DMACK prize drive next weekend, also in a Fiesta R5.
“I’m also very pleased for James and his excellent podium finish in BRC Juniors. He’s had a difficult season having had to change co-drivers and this was his first rally this year with the same navigator more than once, as he and Dai get on extremely well. James finished a very long and challenging event this weekend, something which a lot of vastly more experienced drivers failed to achieve.”
The fifth round of the 2017 Prestone MSA British Rally Championship, the Nicky Grist Stages (8-9 July), is in less than two weeks time. The Builth Wells-based event is the only mixed-surface round of the BRC, with eight stages on gravel in the forest on the Carmarthenshire/Powys border on day one and a further 12 stages over the famous asphalt roads up on the Epynt military ranges on day two.
The team would to thank its partners for their support: Spencer ECA, DMACK Tyres, Motul, Hills Ford, Alphera Financial Services, Oil4Wales, Nicky Grist Motorsports, PIAA UK, Speedline Corse UK, Atech Racing, HT Installations and West Wales Rally Spares.