MACHYNLLETH rally star Osian Pryce will start the busiest period of his career to date, with a first trip to Belgium’s legendary Ypres Rally this week.
Ypres has been drafted into this year’s British Rally Championship calendar and will mark Pryce’s first overseas competition since last year’s Catalunya Rally, when he celebrated winning the World Rally Championship-based Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy.
Just hours after completing the fourth round of this year’s British Rally Championship, Pryce and co-driver Dale Furniss will fly to Warsaw for their first world event of the season, Rally Poland.
After that, it’s back to Britain for the Nicky Grist Stages and then, a fortnight later, it’s Rally Finland time.
“We do three rallies back-to-back and four in six weeks,” said Pryce.
“It’s going to be a seriously busy time for us, but I can’t wait. Opportunities to be in a fantastic rally car like the Ford Fiesta R5 have to be grabbed and made the most of. That’s what Dale and I will be doing.
“Naturally, the focus for now is on Belgium, but Dale and I have been working very closely with the whole team to make sure everything is right and everything is set for what’s going to be a very big six weeks for the two of us.”
Pryce and Furniss will switch to the DMACK World Rally Team for the two WRC outings in Poland and Finland. Those two rallies - which will be in a DMACK-branded Fiesta R5 - are prize-drives for winning last year’s Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy.
“I’ve really put a lot of work into this section of the year,” said Pryce, who is lying second in this year’s British Rally Championship standings.
“Getting ready for one event takes a lot of time and planning, so to do this many in this short space of time means getting everything in order.
"Normally now I’d be thinking a lot about Poland and really going through the gears to get everything in order for that, but we’ve got Ypres first.
"We’ve had to be very regimented in our approach to get all the necessary prep done in the right order for these rallies, but we’re there now.”
Pryce added that he is excited about taking the Alphera/Hills Ford Fiesta R5 to one of the most atmospheric and best-supported rallies in Europe, but his lack of experience of Belgian rallying means a result is hard to predict.
“When you look at the route and see the way the roads are mapped out, you think it’s a fairly straightforward event,” he said, “but nothing could be further from the truth.
"There’s a real art to driving these roads and getting the most out of them. One of the keys is the approach in junctions, you can lose so much time here – particularly when those junctions are leading into a really fast part of the stage.
“And then there really is the weather,”added Pryce. “When it rains, genuinely, anything can happen.
"Because there’s quite a lot of corner cutting in some of the junctions, there’s a lot of mud and muck pulled into the road; we see this in places like Ireland, but from what folk have said, it’s quite different in Ypres. But you have to drive it to really experience it…
“One thing is absolutely sure, it’s going to be a real experience. As well as driving new roads, it’s going to be fantastic to get some of that real Ypres atmosphere.
"Taking the BRC across to a place like this is a fantastic plan and I can’t wait to get out there and get cracking on our first asphalt round of the BRC this year.”
Ahead of his competitive debut in Ypres, Pryce will test the Fiesta R5 at a test on Tuesday. The test road, just outside of Ypres, is wholly representative of the route, with sections of it having been included on the route for this legend of European rallying in previous seasons.
Since Pryce finished second on the Scottish Rally last time out, the Spencer Sport-run Fiesta has been treated to the Evo2 upgrade from M-Sport, which offers more power and enhanced performance.