Pryce and co-driver Noel O’Sullivan returned a scintillating drive in their Michelin-shod Volkswagen Polo GTi across each one of the event’s twelve daunting stages in the Welsh hills to seal their third victory of the season. James Williams gave Hyundai its first UK podium for the Hyundai i20 N Rally2 in second place as Skoda Fabia pilot Ruairi Bell rounded out the top three.
Based in Aberystwyth on the Welsh coastline, the British Rally Championship would visit the event for the first time with the challenge of the event’s 85 miles being well noted over the weekend. The Ceredigion lanes attracted thousands of fans to watch the action on the stages with a truly international feel to the event adding a buzz to proceedings over the two days of competitive driving.
The event blasted into action across the promenade of the seaside town on Saturday with two tricky super-special stages to entertain the fans who had packed the streets to watch the star studded entry list.
Pryce would find himself second to Keith Cronin and co-driver Mikie Galvin in their similar Pirelli-backed Polo GTi but only by 1.5 seconds. However, the following stages under the cover of darkness would prove pivotal in the event’s result; and Cronin’s title hopes.
The first closed-road moorland test would see Cronin extend his lead to over six seconds over Williams who vaulted Pryce into second. That deficit came largely thanks to boost issues in the Melvyn Evans Motorsport run Polo, but the local ace would emerge third, just half a second ahead of teammate Merion Evans.
But the final test of the leg, the aptly named Devil’s Bridge would see Cronin uncharacteristically leave the road after going light over a crest less than a mile into the stage and suffer a sizeable roll. Ceredigion was an important event for Cronin’s points tally and now the four-time champion is left pondering his next move.
Williams led overnight but just 2.6 seconds separated the podium places with Evans and Jonathan Jackson hot on Pryce’s heels. When Sunday came, so did the rain and Pryce played a blinder.
Opting for slicks whilst those around him bolted on the wets, he capitalised on the quickly drying roads throughout the 17-mile Llanfihangel test, moving into the BRC lead by almost 30 seconds. That mammoth stage also saw Evans break the steering in his Polo GTi and Jason Pritchard roll out of the event. But there were no such issues for the man out front.
Despite being tempted to fight with World Rally Championship regular Hayden Paddon for outright victory, Pryce continued to punch in the times with aplomb, leading from the opening stage on Sunday morning to the last, securing an important win for his elusive BRC title chase.
“I`m over the moon with that one,” said Pryce.
“There is a number of people that could have taken the win this weekend to be honest but I`m really impressed with how everything has gone, I`m super happy with the car.”
“You only have to look at the calibre of the guys who haven’t made it to the end, it’s clearly no mean feat to finish this rally and with a car that’s pretty much unmarked; it’s been a pretty special weekend. A huge thanks to all my supporters who have got me here, there is not just the small matter of finding the budget for the next one.”
James Williams stuck firm in second place on Sunday morning and went on to equal the best BRC result of his career. A “scrappy” run over Sunday morning’s loop on the wrong tyres for the conditions kept him at arm’s length from Pryce but he would do enough to haul his all-new i20 Rally2 to second place as he continues to build experience in the BRC1 top-flight.
The fight for the final podium spot was less clear cut with Ruari Bell tussling with the Hankook-supported Ford Fiesta Rally2 pilot Garry Pearson. After a turbulent run over the opening leg, Bell and co-driver Max Freeman started the second leg in fourth but a puncture for Pearson and Dale Furniss gave Bell all the incentive he needed to push on, taking third on the eighth test and staying there till the last.
Fifth would go to Elliot Payne and Patrick Walsh who had put in a long shift over the weekend, contesting two events on two surfaces. Adapting to the asphalt after spending all of Saturday in the forests, Payne stayed out of trouble to take fifth spot on only his third closed-road event.
Rali Ceredigion also saw the crowning of two champions on Welsh soil as the battle for the Junior British Rally Championship entered a critical phase during the weekend. Irishman Eamonn Kelly would have to seal victory if he were to lift the title in Aberystwyth and with two rounds remaining, he could have well been forgiving for backing off in his Fiesta Rally4.
But he didn’t. Leading the Junior charge from the third test, Kelly was in a league of his own and despite a brush with a wall during the Sunday morning loop, emerged from the final stage with the all-important win and was met by a rapturous crowd of home supporters who were able to join in the celebrations on securing the coveted Junior BRC title. Kelly receives a supported drive in a World Rally Championship round in 2023 behind the wheel of a Hyundai i20 N Rally2 as his prize for securing the title.
“This feels class,” said Kelly over the line of the final stage.
“I can’t quite believe it, I`m lost for words. It’s been such a dramatic day, so to be here so early on in the championship and taking the title is really special. We have put so much work into this, its such a team effort and it’s a credit to everyone around us, it would not have happened without them.”
Conor Mohan must wait until the Trackrod if he is to secure the co-drivers honours.
A difficult weekend for Kyle White and Sean Topping in their Peugeot 208 Rally4 saw them grapple with technical issues to take second place whilst Ioan Lloyd and Sion Williams secured their second podium in a row in their Peugeot in third. Joe Kelly and Ronan Comerford secured fifth on their first BRC trip of 2022 whilst Johnnie Mulholland and Eoin Treacy were sixth.
Kyle McBride made a welcome return to the BRC in his Fiesta R2T and did so in fine style, not only taking another maximum points haul in the Academy Trophy and fourth Junior, but doing enough to seal the championship win in the process and free entries into each Junior BRC round in 2023.
National Rally Title
Alan Carmichael and Arthur Kierans were the talk of Aberystwyth town on Saturday night thanks to lying third overall after the opening two street stages. Sadly they couldn’t quite hold on to that as the rally progressed but took their Hyundai i20 to a top ten result and more importantly, their fourth National victory of the season.
Craig Jones and Ian Taylor found it tough going in their Fiesta 4×4 but took a well earnt second whilst William Mains and Emily Easton-Page made sure they grabbed an all-important finish in their newly rebuilt Vauxhall Nova, rounding out the top three in the category.
The British Rally Championship heads back to the forests in just a few weeks’ time as Trackrod Rally Yorkshire plays host to the sixth round of the series at the end of September.
Motorsport UK British Rally Championship Provisional Points – Overall After Round 5
1. Osian Pryce/Noel O’Sullivan 93
2. Keith Cronin/Mikie Galvin 86
3. James Williams/Dai Roberts 63
4. Garry Pearson/Dale Furniss 42
5. Ruairi Bell/Max Freeman 38
6. Eamonn Kelly/Conor Mohan 33
7. Elliot Payne/Patrick Walsh 32
8. Jason Pritchard/Phil Clarke 31
9. Kyle White/Sean Topping 22
10. Andy Davies/Michael Gilbey 18