YATES TO MAKE WRC DEBUT ON RALLY GB
BRC driver ends second full season of rallying with Welsh outing
thought it was too much at that point. We wanted to try and get some more experience this year and build on it with GB at the end of the year.”
Although Yates hasn’t been on the pace of this year’s BRC champion Elfyn Evans, he believes that competing against the Welshman – who also leads the WRC2 standings, where Yates will compete at Rally GB – makes the event less of a splash in the deep end.
“I think Evans has made it good for us,” added Yates. “He’s going to be the one to beat in WRC2, he can go and win that anywhere in the world. It’s been good to have him in the championship [BRC], also it’ll make the step up in pace less drastic when we go to GB as we’ve been competing against him all year. Yes he’s won all year and we’re not there yet, but it’s been good to have him there as he’s the pacesetter in that class and gives us a benchmark.”
This year has been a steep learning curve for Yates, coming up against some of the best R5 drivers in the world, stepping up to four-wheel-drive machinery for the first time in 2016. He has shown flashes of pace, offset by accidents on the Mid Wales Stages and the Scottish Rally.
Yates didn’t upgrade to the Ford Fiesta R5 Evo pack until the Scottish Rally. After rolling on that event, the 23-year-old has scored two consecutive seventh place finishes.
Tom Woodburn will continue in the navigator’s seat after joining Yates part-way through his 2015 campaign. ● Entries for Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship – Wales Rally GB – are open. The event – visiting England for the first time since 1999 – opened its entries on August 24. They close on September 27. Entries for the national rally open today (August 31).
If you take a look to your left you’ll read about David Guest and his winning the Irish Tarmac Championship’s Group N category. Congratulations David.
What I can’t understand is where have all the Group Ns gone?
This year we’ve seen Matt Edwards destroy the BRC2 field for Group N cars in the British Rally Championship, usually because he was the only entrant. But his exploits in the overall order – with two seventh placed finishes – in a car he built himself were simply immaculate.
These two drivers have that in common; they were both relatively alone in their classes but found ways to impress.
A look abroad and there are signs that Group Ns can make noise there too. While WRC’S Production class has petered out, Wojciech Chuchala has launched himself onto the European scene with some excellent performances in his bog standard Subaru Impreza. He leads the ERC2 championship.
Honestly, it’s beyond me why more young drivers don’t take up Group N cars. They’re cheaper than R2s, and teach you how to drive a four-wheel-drive car. Indeed if you can pedal a Group N quickly, the step up to an R5 isn’t as drastic. Just ask Alexey Lukyanuk, who won an ERC round outright in 2015 and stepped up to an R5 this year. He’s instantly been at the front of the order (before crashing consistently, anyway).
Some of my favourite performances, this year and last, have come from Group Ns. Indeed, any of the BTRDA N4 battles between Russ Thompson, Pat Naylor, Tom Naughton and Aaron Mcclure over the past year or two have been fantastic. Edwards’ giant-killing performance in Mid Wales, the BRC opener, after finishing the car in his garage a night or two before the event was just fantastic.
The lack of Group Ns is part of a growing culture of shortcutting in junior formulae, not just in rallying but in racing, too. We see drivers come out of karting and make colossal steps towards European F3 or F4 or the likes of.
While chatting to David Higgins at Autosport International, Higgins made it known that he felt young drivers shouldn’t miss out Group N.
Rallying is different to circuit racing for youngsters. It takes longer to reach the top of the sport, whether that be at international or national level. More time on pacenotes, tyre choice and predicting surfaces is needed to reach the top. Look at Kris Meeke, coming into his own as one of the sport’s best in the second half of his 30s.
The point being, essentially, that young drivers need that extra time to perfect notes and learn their craft. Group N is an excellent way to learn the ropes of four-wheel-drive rallying on a relatively acceptable budget. Young drivers take heed. Spend that extra year learning.