Osian Pryce has two rallies left in his British Rally Championship season – and his aim is simple: to win both of them.
Next week’s penultimate round of the BRC takes crews to Londonderry/Derry for the John Mulholland Motors Ulster Rally. It’s in these world-class stages that Osian will have to show the kind of form which has carried him to a victory and three podiums the last three times he’s visited the event.
Osian’s season had been building momentum beautifully – he left Belgium’s Ypres Rally leading the championship and looking forward to an opportunity to build that lead with a home run on the Nicky Grist Stages. Controlling the event from the front and ready to bring his Alphera/Hills Ford-backed Fiesta R5 home with a big points cushion at the top of the BRC table, the car was stopped by a fuel pump which seized.
Osian and co-driver Dale Furniss have put the disappointment of Wales out of their minds as they focus on the trip across the Irish Sea.
“There’s a lot riding on the Ulster,” said Osian. “I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s make or break for this season, but it’s really not far off it! Basically, we have to win here and on the final round on the Isle of Man. And that’s fine, because that’s exactly what we’re aiming to do.”
Osian has shown stunning speed, tenacity and consistency to lead the BRC in his first full year in a four-wheel drive car. But his biggest challenge lies ahead in the next two rounds.
“What happened on the Nicky Grist was gut-wrenching,” he said, “it’s something nobody had seen before. But you have to pick yourself up from there and go again. We’re 22 points off the lead, but we’ve still got a fighting chance of the title and we’re going to take it.
“The Ulster’s never a straightforward rally, but it’s one where I’ve gone well in the past and it’s an event which suits me. The weather can change the event in the blink of an eye and if you’re not on the right tyres when the rain comes or when it dries then it can be a struggle – getting those weather calls is absolutely vital for this rally.
“As we’re coming closer to the business end of the season, the competition is inevitably getting tighter. There are still a few drivers in with a shot at winning the championship and that really forces everybody on a little bit. There’s not going to be any time to try to bed into this one, it’s going to be absolutely flat-out from the start. The plan will be to go hard from the start and take a look at what’s going on after the first loop. Like I said, we’re out for a win this time. Second place isn’t really going to be much use to us now.”
John Mulholland Motors Ulster Rally
Based: Ebrington Square, Londonderry/Derry
Service Ebrington, Londonderry/Derry
Total distance: 420.04 miles
Competitive distance: 133.90 miles
John Mulholland Motors Ulster Rally Itinerary
Saturday August 18
SS1 Holly Hill 1 11.58 miles 1400
SS2 Mary Gray 1 8.36 miles 1458
SS3 Butterlope 1 4.70 miles 1538
Service Ebrington 1646
SS4 Holly Hill 2 11.58 miles 1836
SS5 Mary Gray 2 8.36 miles 1934
SS6 Butterlope 2 4.70 miles 2014
Service Ebrington 2110
Parc Fermé 2200
Sunday August 19
SS7 Slievekirk 1 8.57 miles 0743
Service Ebrington 0816
SS8 Drumnahoe 1 8.91 miles 0935
SS9 Barnes Gap 1 8.95 miles 1011
SS10 Rousky 1 15.88 miles 1042
Service Ebrington 1213
SS11 Slievekirk 2 8.57 miles 1301
Service Ebrington 1334
SS12 Drumnahoe 2 8.91 miles 1453
SS13 Barnes Gap 2 8.95 miles 1529
SS14 Rousky 2 15.88 miles 1600
Service Ebrington 1731
Parc Fermé 1750
Osian’s five facts about Northern Ireland
Game of Thrones employs more people in Northern Ireland than the civil service.
Austins stood as the world’s oldest independent department store in Londonderry/Derry until 2016. Opened in 1830, it closed its doors unexpectedly last year when the costs of dealing with asbestos in the building became clear. One hundred and 86 years of continuous trading’s pretty impressive though.
On average, it rains 157 days of the year in Northern Ireland – so it’s a reasonable bet that, come Saturday or Sunday, you might need an umbrella. The good news is, however, that it generally snows for less than 10 days a year.
One woman who was happier than probably any other to see Londonderry/Derry coming into view was Amelia Earhart. Her first solo trans-Atlantic flight touched down in fields nearby in 1932.
One in four people in Northern Ireland is under-16. That’s more young people than anywhere else in the UK.