Chris Ingram maintains BRC lead after Rallynuts podium while Meirion Evans gives Castrol Toyota Yaris strong UK gravel rally debut

Chris Ingram has maintained his lead at the top of the Probite British Rally Championship points table after finishing third on the Rallynuts Severn Valley Stages in his Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, while Castrol MEM Rally Team stablemate Meirion Evans gave the Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 a strong sixth-place finish on the car’s UK forest rally debut.

Mid-Wales microclimates collectively did their best to tease and test crews on the 62 stage mile event, with conditions that changed so much that on the first run through Myherin it was wet at the beginning, dense fog in the middle and dry towards the end of the stage. It was exceptionally slippery too, particularly in the afternoon where sections of the stages had been polished and offered even less grip than they’d done on the morning loop. 
It wasn’t the ideal conditions to learn a new car on an unfamiliar surface, but Meirion stuck to his pre-event plan of not allowing himself to get frustrated and instead concentrate on getting more valuable miles in the Yaris Rally2.

Co-driven by Jonathan Jackson, the Carmarthenshire driver was seventh throughout the morning and moved up to sixth after setting equal fifth fastest time through the penultimate stage. An excellent fact-finding gravel mission, in which the Yaris Rally2 had once again performed faultlessly, resulted in another high-scoring BRC finish and a lot of positives to take away from only Meirion’s third forestry rally in a four-wheel drive car.

Chris led the event after setting fastest time on the opening stage but struggled to find grip, especially exiting tight corners, from then on. The Manchester driver was second, just 11.7 seconds off the lead, when he arrived at the midday service halt at the Royal Welsh Showground in Llanelwedd, where the Castrol MEM Rally Team replaced the Polo R5’s rear differential and anti-roll bar to soften it in an attempt to stop the car from sliding sideways so much. 
Chris and co-driver Alex Kihurani continued to fly on the faster sections but were still unable to find the grip they needed on the slower sections and dropped to third by the time the Suisscourtage-backed crew reached the finish outside the Metropole Hotel in Llandrindod Wells. It was their second podium finish of the season, and having won the opening North West Stages they continue to lead the BRC points standings after two rounds.
Meirion Evans said: “The conditions didn’t make it easy. The weather forecast suggested that it was going to be a little bit more straightforward, but on every stage the conditions were different. To be fair, the feeling on the first stage was good and we thought we could build on that, but the fog came down for the second and third stages in places – and the third stage was wet at the start, foggy in the middle and dry at the end. It’s hard to get a rhythm and learn a new car on what is still a pretty unfamiliar surface for me when conditions are changing so much like that. It was the same in the afternoon, as the penultimate stage through Myherin was particularly slippery. It was important to get some more competitive miles in the car and I can see where we are leaving a lot of time behind, so it’s something we will build on going forward. It’s another strong points finish and an okay result. I wasn’t expecting a hell of a lot from this weekend anyway. We said before the start that a top five result would be great and we finished sixth, so we’re pretty close to where we thought we’d be on our first gravel rally in the Yaris, and we can definitely build on this.”

Chris Ingram said: “We could set fast times without really pushing when there was grip, but when it got really greasy and slippery it was a completely different story. We were just wheel spinning coming out of slower corners and generally struggling to find traction. I couldn’t have gone any faster on the fast sections, but we lost all the time on the tight and twister sections. The penultimate stage for example was ridiculously polished and we lost loads of time, but on the last stage we drove exactly the same and where there was a bit more grip we were on the pace again. It’s been a big learning day, but a podium’s a podium isn’t it? We can’t be disappointed with third. It’s a good back up result should we need it in the race for the British Rally Championship title.”
The Probite British Rally Championship returns to asphalt for Round 3, the Duns-based Beatson’s Building Supplies Jim Clark Rally on 24/25 May, held on closed country lanes of Berwickshire in Scotland.