Rally-driver Yates races to impressive hat-trick

FOREST FIRE -- rally-driver Rhys Yates in action at the infamous Kielder Forest circuit.
FOREST FIRE -- rally-driver Rhys Yates in action at the infamous Kielder Forest circuit.

Rally-driver Rhys Yates, of Chesterfield, has racked up three wins on the spin to boost his chances of glory in the MSA English Championship.

Previously a successful motocross rider, the 22-year-old Yates has made a tremendous transition to four wheels, which led to him completing the hat-trick of victories in a championship qualifier at Carlisle last weekend.

He took the Carlisle stages of the REIS-Ravenol BTRDA (British Trial and Rally Drivers Association) Series by storm in his Ford Fiesta R2, racing to an impressive first place in class B10 and 35th place overall, which means that, at the halfway point of the season, titles are up for grabs.

Yates, an electrician by trade, headed north for the Carlisle Stages Rally at Longtown for the first time, fully aware of the notorious nature of the Kielder Forest track.

The infamous complex has claimed many experienced drivers, and he would have been forgiven for making a cautious start. But the time sheets showed differently. Yates stamped his authority on the leaderboard from the very first test, opening up a five-second lead in his class.

This form would soon become the norm and, along with co-driver Phil Hall, he widened the gap to 11 seconds. With no sign of nerves, the duo continued to dominate the class throughout the remaining morning stages, setting fastest times without hesitation.

Despite the harsh nature of the rocky stages and lingering dust under the trees, no problems were reported and Yates headed out into the 13-mile final stage in command.

It was a typical Kielder stage, but Yates emerged unscathed and returned to the finish ramp with a huge 45-second advantage over the runner-up. What’s more, the Chesterfield youngster took start-to-finish fastest class stage times in his Brettex Site Services-backed car.

“Despite having to avoid a few rather large rocks, the stages were fantastic,” said Yates. “They were really fast and flowing, which is how I like them.

“The Pirelli tyres performed faultlessly all day too, while many cars around us punctured. I’m really settling into the Fiesta now, which bodes well for the second half of the season.”

Yates honed his skills last year in a near-showroom specification Suzuki Swift. But on progressing to the popular Fiesta R2, he made an immediate impression with a solid result in his first outing.

Throughout the season, he has secured a multitude of podium positions, both in the BTRDA Series and English Championship. He leads the BTRDA B10 and English E3 classes and holds a strong second in the BTRDA Silver Star (two-wheel drive) category. He also lies fourth overall in the English Championship, just one point behind third place.