North West Stages win and double British Rally Championship podium for the Castrol MEM Rally Team

The Castrol MEM Rally Team enjoyed a dream debut in the Probite British Rally Championship, with Chris Ingram/Alex Kihurani winning the Legend Fires North West Stages in a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 and Meirion Evans/Jonathan Jackson taking third in a Toyota GR Yaris Rally2.

Ingram set the fastest time on the opening two stages to race into a commanding lead, and with two more stage wins on SS7 and 8, the Manchester ace had extended that advantage to 31.4 seconds with just two stages remaining.

The 2019 FIA European rally champion was then able to ease off slightly and manage that lead, cruising to a convincing 27 second victory – winning the event for a second time and giving his co-driver the honour of becoming the first American to win a round of the BRC.

Evans also started well and settled into the new Yaris Rally2 with ease, and amongst tough competition was immediately challenging for a podium position.

Every mile was providing vital information, and after various minor set up adjustments the Carmarthenshire driver set third fastest time on SS8 and 9 and equal second fastest time on the 10th and final stage – despite being on slick tyres in wet and slippery conditions. That was more than enough to secure him third place in the event – and allow the Castrol MEM Rally Team to take an early lead at the top of the BRC Teams’ standings.

Meirion Evans said: “Overall, I’m really happy with our first event in the Yaris Rally2. We learnt a fair bit about the car in quite a short space of time and it’s given us a good platform to work off. We were starting to get to grips with it on the first loop when unfortunately two stages were cancelled, so that cut the momentum a bit. Then in the afternoon we had intended to push for second place, but the weather completely changed and we found ourselves on soft slicks while William Creighton [in second] was on wet tyres, so it was safer to consolidate what we already had and take a double podium finish for the team. It’s still pleasing that despite taking it quite easy on the closing stages the times were still good. We know now where we can improve the car and despite there being not much time between now and the second round we will try to spend some more time in the car on asphalt ahead of the Jim Clark Rally, so we can hit the ground running on round three.

“Huge thanks to TGR, Castrol and all the team at home for their work. It’s a credit to them all that we can achieve a result like this on a rally with such a strong entry in a brand-new car to us all.”

Chris Ingram said: “I am delighted to take the first win of the season and at my most local rally, the North West Stages. It was a very challenging event with fantastic closed-road stages in Lancashire. We managed to lead after the first two stages by 17.4 seconds, so then drove more conservatively to manage that lead. The car ran faultlessly thanks to the Castrol MEM Rally Team and it was great to have Alex Kihurani co-driving for me again, who is now the first ever American winner of a round of the British Rally Championship! I was delighted to share the podium with my mate and team-mate Meirion [Evans] who drove superbly on his debut with the Yaris. I can’t wait until our Toyota arrives!”

Round 2 of the Probite British Rally Championship will be the team’s home gravel event, the Rallynuts Severn Valley Stages. Based in Llandrindod Wells, the event takes place on Saturday 13 April with stages in the former Wales Rally GB forests of Myherin and Hafren.