Pryce Is Right After Dramatic Late Trophy Twist

Pryce Is Right After Dramatic Late Trophy Twist

Welshman Osian Pryce was a worthy winner as round one of the 2016 Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy season was decided by a dramatic last-minute twist. Pryce and co-driver Dale Furniss finished on top at the end of a thrilling and incident-packed Vodafone Rally de Portugal.

Consistent throughout, the Welsh duo had looked set to cement second spot after a solid and measured performance over a tough 368km course around Porto on rugged gravel roads.

But there was incredible late drama as leader and local favourite Bernardo Sousa crashed out on the last of the 19 stages while holding an advantage of more than a minute. Sousa and co-driver Hugo Magalhaes had comfortably led their home rally after young British pretender and early front-runner Gus Greensmith suffered a double puncture on stage seven which ended his podium hopes.

But Sousa's last gasp misfortune, which left his Ford Fiesta R2T off the road and on its roof, allowed 23-year-old Pryce and Furniss to make a winning start to their first Trophy campaign. They finished 1min 45sec ahead of Trophy "veteran" Max Vatanen. The flying Finn, Trophy competitor in both 2014 and 2015, took a satisfying runners-up spot having won last year's event.

Rally de Portugal also proved to be one to remember for 18-year-old Rookie Nicolas Ciamin, who was making his WRC debut in only his third ever rally.
Frenchman Ciamin, the youngest competitor in the field, was rewarded for his cautious approach to the tricky course by clinching the final podium place and top Rookie finisher.

Pryce leads the way in the initial title standings having claimed 28 points, nine more than Vatanen, who in turn is four ahead of Ciamin. The event had once again proved to be difficult with roads cutting up badly and exposing sharp rocks, abrasive bedrock and deep ruts.

But many drivers showed good speed during a weekend in which there were five different stage winners - showing the competitive nature of the acclaimed Trophy series. They included Northern Ireland's Jon Armstrong, winner of last year's Vatanen Touch Award, who finished fourth.

A turbo boost issue and a puncture on day one ruled Armstrong out of serious contention. But his pace continued to improve and he recorded his first fastest Trophy time during a final flourish on Sunday. There were WRC debut drives for the trio of Kenya's Karan Patel, Dillon Van Way, from the USA, and Poland's Jakub Brzeziński.

Each will have learned a great deal from the opening outing, along with Norwegian Oscar Solberg, who in only his second WRC drive experienced a slow roll on stage two. The 10 crews, flying the flag for 13 different countries, are competing in identical Ford Fiesta R2 cars during a five-rally Trophy campaign which concludes in October. This is a joint initiative by WRC tyre manufacturer DMACK and M-Sport.

Their cars are powered by Ford's 1.0 EcoBoost turbo-charged engine and were equipped in Portugal with DMACK's latest G42 gravel rally tyres, which stood up magnificently to the tough conditions.

All participants have their sights trained on the biggest prize in global rallying – a lucrative seven rounds of WRC 2 competition in 2017 using a Drive DMACK Ford Fiesta R5. There is also a new prize structure with events in the series being paired. The driver accumulating the most points over these twinned rallies wins the chance to drive a Fiesta R5 car on two WRC 2 rounds.

The 10 crews are next in action in early July at Rally Poland - which is Brzeziński's home event.

Dick Cormack, DMACK managing director, said: “We anticipated some close competition and weren’t disappointed. Well done to Osian and Dale but we’ve seen a strong event from Bernardo and impressive speed from Gus. It’s certainly lining up to be an exciting season.”

Malcolm Wilson, M-Sport managing director, said: “It's been a pretty exciting start to the season. Osian didn't put a foot wrong all weekend and has been rewarded with victory on his debut. We've seen a number of drivers setting strong pace - Bernardo in particular who was leading up until the very last stage. But also from Gus, who set five fastest times. It's shaping up to be one of the most exciting editions of the Trophy yet.”

Driver Quotes

Bernardo Sousa from Portugal said: “I’m really disappointed that we made the mistake on the last stage but I’m also pleased that we have the pace to be leading. It’s 10 years since I’ve raced in a two-wheel-drive car and we got to a good pace really quickly. I’m looking forward to Poland now and I promise I will be fighting again to win.”

Osian Pryce from Wales said: “It’s awesome to be top of the podium, I really didn’t expect it. It’s a bit of a shock because we were just trying to make it round but then people were waving us down and there was Bernardo, standing at the side of the road. It’s been a tough rally but we stuck to our plan and commiserations to Bernardo as he drove really well. The next rally in Poland is really crucial as we have a good chance to extend our lead.”

Max Vatanen from Finland said: “It’s been quite a difficult weekend, with the technical issues we were having with the car. I know the team did their very best to sort it out but it’s still frustrating. Other than that I tried my best. I’m happy to not have retired on the stages and to finish second overall is a really positive start.”

Nicolas Ciamin from France said: “Finishing on the podium was a big surprise for me. I didn’t have the speed to finish third but I stayed on the road while other drivers had problems. It’s been an amazing experience so far, but the roads are much rougher than I expected. There is obviously still lots of work to do and it’s completely different from anything I have done so far but overall I’m really enjoying it and having fun.”

Jon Armstrong from Northern Ireland said: “Overall it’s gone well for us, we had a few issues on the first day so that was a shame but day two was better. We set some competitive times especially on the second pass of the long stage so I was really happy with that. There are loads of positives to take away because we haven’t been too far off the pace. I’ve learnt a lot about the car during this event, and I'll take that and apply it to the next event in Poland.”

Gus Greensmith from England said: “We started really well and I was happy to be leading on the first day – we’ve worked hard to prepare for this and it all paid off. We showed exceptional pace while also being in the middle of the road but it was a cruel rally for us. I’ve got good confidence ahead of the next would and I’m sure we can finish on top of the podium in Poland with a trouble-free rally.”

Dillon Van Way from USA said: “We’ve learned a lot this weekend and it’s been a tough first WRC rally. Unfortunately the tricky stages caught us out yesterday but it was important we came back today to complete more stages. It’s been a big learning week and I’m looking forward to the next round in Poland now.”

Jakub Brzezinski from Poland said: “The first round here in Portugal has been a fantastic experience for me and I’m really enjoying my time so far. There have been some really valuable lessons learned and I’m looking forward to gaining more experience in the coming events. The next round is my home event in Poland so we will concentrate on having a good result there.”

Oscar Solberg from Norway said: “On Friday we had a the roll and crash so that wasn’t the best start. Saturday was far better and we had good pace and made some good progress. I need to learn some new driving skills and work harder on the pace notes with my co-pilot ahead of the next event. It’s nice to get the kilometres under my belt and will continue to absorb as much experience as I can. I’ll be aiming for more seat time before the next event in July.”

Karan Patel from Kenya said: “It’s been a good learning experience for me. It has highlighted the need to work on my pace notes and adapt them for the more technical driving that can be found here in Europe. Apart from the crash I am happy with my first experiences on the WRC and look forward to Poland.”

Final Classification
1. Osian Pryce / Dale Furniss 4h 37m 35.6s
2. Max Vatanen / Thierry Salva 4h 39m 20.7s
3. Nicolas Ciamin / Thibault de la Haye Rookie 4h 53m 36.1s
4. Jon Armstrong / Noel O’Sullivan Rookie 4h 53m 59.9s
5. Dillon Van Way / Andrew Edwards Rookie 5h 13m 03.9s
6. Jakub Brzeziński / Bartłomiej Boba Rookie 5h 27m 04.8s
7. Oscar Solberg / Patrik Barth Rookie 5h 41m 40.0s

Trophy Classification After Round 1
1. Osian Pryce / Dale Furniss 28
2. Max Vatanen / Thierry Salva 19
3. Nicolas Ciamin / Thibault de la Haye Rookie 15
4. Jon Armstrong / Noel O’Sullivan Rookie 13
5. Dillon Van Way / Andrew Edwards Rookie 10
6. Bernardo Sousa / Hugo Magalhaes 8
7. Jakub Brzeziński / Bartłomiej Boba Rookie 8
8. Oscar Solberg / Patrik Barth Rookie 6
9. Gus Greensmith / Alex Gelsomino 5
10. Karan Patel / Phil Hall Rookie 0


Pryce Is Right After Dramatic Late Trophy Twist
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