By Paul Evans
Osian Pryce tested the Escort Mk2 he’ll drive on tomorrow’s North Wales Rally Services-sponsored Rally North Wales at the Sweet Lamb Rally Complex near Llangurig today – 11 years since he last drove one on his 14th birthday!
The Machynlleth-born driver has always wanted to compete in one of the iconic historic Escorts, but the Sport Wales-supported driver’s career took him up a more modern route – climbing the ranks in cars like a Renault Clio, Fiesta R2, Citroën DS3 R3 and most recently a Ford Fiesta R5 in the British and World Rally Championships.
The 25-year old did the opening round of the Pirelli MSA Welsh Rally Championship, the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally, as part of his test and development duties with Spencer Sport, scoring maximum points in a Mitsubishi Mirage R5. And despite starting as number one seed on Rally North Wales, his re-appearance in the series is purely for fun – and to fulfil a dream of rallying an Escort Mk2 that he’s had parked for all of his adult life!
But even for a driver with 13 World Rallies and a fourth place WRC2 finish on Rally Finland under his belt, Rally North Wales will be far from easy for Pryce and co-driver Dale Furniss, as the event is also a round of the British Historic Rally Championship – meaning the elite of British historic rallying will be descending on the host town on Dolgellau and the six gravel stages in nearby Dyfi and Gartheiniog forests.
“The first rally car I ever drove was a Mk2 Escort,” says Pryce. “It was owned by my father and grandfather, it was nothing like the build quality and power of the RallyXtreme car that I’ll use on Rally North Wales of course, and driving it was my fourteenth birthday present! Apart from driving a Tuthill Porsche as a rally driving instructor at the Below Ice Driving Experience in Sweden I haven’t driven a rear-wheel drive car since, so it’s all going to be a little bit alien and a new challenge.
“We’re doing the rally for a bit of fun, as it’s my local event. The route has been changed slightly this year, so one of the stages comes within 150 yards of my parent’s house – which is the closest it’s been for a number of years. It literally couldn’t get any closer to the front door, so it was an event I really couldn’t miss.
“There are some very good and experienced drivers competing in the MSA British Historic Rally Championship, so if we can get close to them towards the end of the event I’ll be really happy. But it’s all about going out and having some sideways fun, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
A strong line up of both Welsh and Historic Rally Championship contenders will battle it out tomorrow (Saturday 24 March), with effectively two different rallies running in one event. The two-wheel drive cars will leave the start-line at Gwyndaf Evans Motors in Dolgellau from 07.30 (and finish there at 12.30), and the four-wheel drive crews will head out from the town’s Farmers’ Market from 13.20 (and finish at Gwyndaf Evans Motors at 17.30). Spectators can view the action in the Geoff Jones Motorsport Big Ray stage and in Tim Hobbs Gartheiniog, where both group of cars will each pass twice.