The debut season just gets better and better for Chesterfield driver Rhys Yates in the MSA British Rally Championship.
Yates conquered the notoriously difficult Ulster Rally at the weekend, finishing an impressive eighth overall in what was the penultimate round of the championship.
And what’s more, he and co-driver Tom Woodburn caught the eye of the rally organisers in such a way that they were awarded the Philip White Young Achievers Award in recognition of their performance at the Londonderry-based event.
“It was a real honour to have our efforts honoured in this way,” said the 22-year-old Yates at the finish. “It was one of the toughest rallies I have ever done, and we had everything thrown at us. So to come out in eighth is a real confidence boost for us as we head into the final round next month.
“I’m really pleased to see that our times are competitive now as we begin to learn all about the new Fiesta R5 Evo car. This was always going to be a ‘feet-finding’ year, and I think we are certaibnly starting to do just that.”
A learning year it might be, but Yates’s consistent displays throughout the season have enabled him to sit firmly inside the top ten of the championship standings. And after Ulster, the Brettex Site Services-backed pilot lies in ninth position.
Going into the event, the Chesterfield ace had perhaps already proved his pace on Irish closed-road events because he surged home to finish sixth in the Circuit Of Ireland Rally earlier in the year.
But the Ulster race was always going to be one of the hardest of the season, especially with heavy rain making the going treacherous for the crews.
With localised showers dominating the opening leg of the event, tyre choice proved crucial, leaving Yates thankful for the support he has received from tyre giant Michelin this season.
Despite a confidence-boosting top-12 position on the opening stage, a puncture hampered progress on the second test of the day, sending Yates down the leaderboard to 16th. But this was not representative of his progress during the afternoon’s stages and he spent the remainder of the day setting a raft of top-ten stage-times to end the leg in 11th overall.
Day two provided the bulk of the event mileage, and it proved another exacting test for even the most experienced of competitors. The rain returned in anger and the Ulster roads remained treacherous and muddy.
But similar to his performances during the season, Yates took a mature approach to the conditions and balanced his pace with consistency to make inroads on the leaderboard. By the time the Brettex Fiesta had crossed the finish ramp on Saturday evening, he had bagged eighth.
The final round of the championship is the Rally Isle of Man, which is a double points-scoring opportunity and takes place over three days in September. As well as Brettex Site Services, Yates is supported by Michelin, NGK Spark Plugs, and Simpson.