By Paul Evans
Whilst the odds might not favour Elfyn Evans becoming world rally champion in Italy this weekend, over in Northern Ireland a Welshman is guaranteed to lift the British Rally Championship title on Saturday night as Osian Pryce and Matt Edwards go head-to-head in the season’s title decider.
Pryce arrives the Modern Tyres Ulster Rally final showdown with an eight-point lead and can only miss out on his first British title if Edwards doesn’t score maximum points.
Pryce (co-driven by Irishman Noel O’Sullivan) is the only driver to have finished on the podium in all six rallies this year, including winning last time out on the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally and a maximum bonus BRC Joker points score on Mull.
But with only five scores from seven rounds counting towards the final points tally, the Machynlleth-born driver is in the unusual position of either having to win to guarantee the title or hope Edwards doesn’t win.
You’d think Edwards (co-driven by Abersoch-based Darren Garrod) would be feeling the pressure – but not so, as it’s a very straightforward win or nothing scenario for the Llandudno-born driver.
And if that wasn’t enough to spice up a cold and wintry Saturday afternoon in County Down both Pryce and Edwards drive identical Volkswagen Polo GTI R5s prepared and run by Melvyn Evans Motorsport – which is guaranteed to bring the BRC Teams’ trophy back to Wales too.
So, in one corner is the red and black Michelin-shod Volkswagen of Pryce and in the other is the Pirelli-shod Yuasa Rally Team Polo GTI R5 of Edwards.
Pryce is looking for his first British title, whilst for Edwards it will be a record-breaking third BRC crown in a row.
Let battle commence!
“Now that I’m feeling more comfortable driving the Polo GTI and I’m confident that we’ll be able to start the event with a good set up and balance, I’m really looking forward to the Ulster Rally more than any other event that we’ve gone to this year,” says Pryce.
“Winning last time out on the Cambrian was a great confidence boost. I’ll have to employ the same tactic again and try to make a good start on the Ulster because in recent years a large chuck of the time gained has been on the opening loop of stages.
“That’s not going to be easy as I’ve never rallied on those roads before, because the last time I did the Ulster Rally it was based in a completely different part of Northern Ireland.
“But I think we have shown on our last two outings that it doesn’t really matter if you’re rallying in a place that you’re familiar with like the Cambrian, or somewhere for the first time like on Mull.
“If you’re at one with the car and you can commit to the pace notes then you can get the job done.
“It’s nice to be going to the final round of the British Rally Championship in the lead. I’ve been in this position before and this time we’re determined to finish the job off and win the title!”
Edwards says: “It’s the most straightforward final round of the British Rally Championship that I’ve ever had, as I’ve got to go and win it,”.
“There are no variables, no ifs and buts – it’s a case of maximum points or nothing.
“And I feel good about it too, because I go to the final round with a lot of confidence in the Polo. We proved in Mull that we have the speed and we know that we have the pace on asphalt to get the job done.
“I’ve also gone well in recent years in Ulster. There is a good mix of fast and technical stages and when we were there last time in 2019 we had a few stage wins against Craig Breen and finished second overall.
“There is nothing going against me at the moment. Everything feels aligned and I see no reason why we won’t be able to score maximum BRC points in Ulster and come home with the title.”
Saturday’s Ulster Rally is based in Newry and contains nine closed road asphalt stages (three stages ran three times) totalling 94 stage miles to the north of the town in County Down.
The event starts at 08.15 with the finish ceremony taking place at 17.30.