Punctures flatten hopes of podium place in Rome

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Chesterfield racer Rhys Yates was cruelly denied a top finish at the Rally di Roma Capitale as two punctures hampered his progress up the leaderboard at the fifth round of the FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) in Italy.

After taking an impressive third place in the junior under-28 category at the season opener in Azores, the driver headed to the tough three-day rally with his sights set on another podium in the category.

He was denied a repeat performance, however, losing over four minutes on the second leg to eventually finish 17th overall and fifth junior.

“It was a frustrating rally and we ran out of luck, but I still enjoyed the event,” said Yates.

“You have to pick yourself up and get on with it. Sometimes that’s hard to do but we made the most of the final day and ensured we built up as much experience and knowledge of the stages for the future.”

The 26-year-old started by setting a blistering pace in the first free practice run to go quickest overall.

He was 13th after the 1.8km Friday night blast through Rome’s streets.

The following day Yates suffered the worst possible start to his rally, clipping an unseen rock and puncturing the front right tyre.

A second puncture in the fifth test sealed his fate.

On the second day he drove well to gain further experience and his consistency was rewarded with 17th and fifth place in the under-28 juniors — after languishing in the 30s for much of the opening day.