Ahlin & Eriksen win Nicky Grist Stages

Fredrik Ahlin and co driver Torstein Eriksen claimed victory on the Nicky Grist Stages, round five of the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship after local crew Osian Pryce and Dale Furniss had led for most of the event until a high-pressure fuel pump failure sidelined their Ford Fiesta R5 on Sunday afternoon allowing the Scandinavian crew to inherit the lead in their DMACK Skoda Fabia R5, their third victory this season which returned them to the top of the championship table.

North Wales based Matt Edwards repeated his Ypres second place on home turf with Phil Clarke in the hot seat in the Hankook backed Fiesta R5 and BRC young gun Rhys Yates and Alex Lee took their first BRC podium in their Michelin supported Fiesta R5, making it three tyre manufacturers in the top three.

The opening day played out over eight dusty, gravel stages used previously on Wales Rally GB and the teams then had a mere 150 minutes to change their rally cars suspension from gravel to Tarmac spec for the following days action over the famous Epynt Military Ranges. In all, 20 timed special stages and more than 115 competitive miles awaited BRC competitors.

Leading the way on home turf were Osian Pryce and Dale Furniss, the Welsh crew took advantage of running first on the road and mastered the hot and dusty conditions in their Spencer Sport machine. Five stage wins from eight meant Pryce went into the overnight halt with a healthy 19 second lead over Fredrik Ahlin. With no recent rainfall in mid Wales, the challenging stages were made even harder for the cars behind, with hanging dust causing a major headache. Ahlin and co driver Torstein Eriksen battled through that dust to cut into the deficit after the first loop and took the battle to the local heroes across the Epynt Ranges.

Ypres Rally winner Keith Cronin and runner up Matt Edwards locked horns throughout the opening day, this time on Edwards home turf. The north Wales driver had the measure of Cronin to lead the Irishman ahead of the Tarmac tests. With cars changed into asphalt specification overnight, drivers similarly had to adapt as they left the sideways gravel approach behind and adopted a neat and tidy driving style ahead of the daunting Epynt Ranges, the ribbon of Tarmac that floats across the land and favours the brave but is renowned for catching out the unwary.

Following the retirement of the Pryce/Furniss Fiesta, Edwards kept the pressure on Ahlin and bagged four fastest stage times on his way to equalling his best result of the season. The final step on the rostrum was contested between Rhys Yates/Alex Lee and Marty McCormack/David Moynihan. Yates and Lee put in a sterling performance all event and were determined to take their first podium this season. The Englishman resisted the pressure from an on form McCormack in the closing stages, with the eventual margin between the two drivers just 4 seconds at the finish. Yates duly became the eighth different competitor to taste champagne in Britains premier rallying series this season.

Fredrik Ahlin now leads the Prestone MSA BRC with 88 points from Osian Pryce with 66 and Matt Edwards on 54. Keith Cronin is fourth with 49 from Rhys Yates on 46 points and Martin McCormack with 42

Prestone MSA British Rally Championship Results of Round 5 Nicky Grist Stages

1. Fredrik Ahlin/Torstien Erikson Skoda Fabia R5 1:45:50.2
2. Matt Edwards/Darren Garrod Ford Fiesta R5 + 47.5
3. Rhys Yates/Alex Lee Ford Fiesta R5 + 2:08.0
4. Marty McCormack/David Moynihan Ford Fiesta R5 + 2:11.7
5. Jamie Anderson/Ross Whittock Ford Fiesta R5 + 3:16.7
6. Callum Devine/Keith Moriarty Opel ADAM R2 + 8:48.0
7. William Creighton/Liam Regan Peugeot 208 R2 + 9:06.6
8. James Williams/Dai Roberts Ford Fiesta R2T + 9:13.8
9. Marty Gallagher/Dean O'Sullivan Peugeot 208 R2 + 9:45.7
10. Meirion Evans/Jonathan Jackson Peugeot 208 R2 + 10:30.9

11th July, 2017