Pirelli was involved in a captivating battle for victory as the MSA British Rally Championship returned to action on the Mid Wales Stages.
The BRC’s revival after a year away proved to be very well-received with a strong and competitive entry for the opening event based in Newtown. A large number of drivers relied on Pirelli tyres, including seven of the top 10 finishers.
The field included drivers attracted from overseas and Sweden’s Fredrik Ahlin battled hard for victory in a Pirelli-backed Ford Fiesta R5, fighting local favourite and World Rally Championship regular Elfyn Evans throughout.
Running in the top two from the start, Ahlin won the second of the two stages that opened the rally on Saturday night and then triumphed in the first two tests of Sunday morning to overhaul Evans for the rally lead with just two stages to go.
Ahlin would finish up in second place but only 17.1 seconds down on Evans, proving he will be a serious contender during his first season in Britain.
“I’m really happy,” said Ahlin. “We were the only ones up there matching Elfyn, and everyone knew he would be really quick here. I think we have exceeded our and everyone else’s expectations. Now we have to keep on pushing.”
The contest for the win wasn’t the only closely-fought rally-long tussle, with Ahlin’s CA1 Sport team-mate David Bogie only narrowly missing out on a podium position in his new Skoda Fabia R5.
Two more Pirelli runners completed the top six, with Euan Thorburn fifth in his Peugeot 208 R5 ahead of Josh Moffett in a Ford Fiesta R5. Citroen DS3 R5 duo Jonathan Greer and Keith Cronin and Skoda driver Desi Henry also finished inside the top 10.
Drivers had to contend with harder-than-expected conditions, with some sections of the gravel stages coated in snow. Pirelli’s soft-compound Scorpion K8 gravel tyre proved to be a popular choice in the low temperatures, including for Ahlin.
The BRC will move on to asphalt for round two, the Circuit of Ireland Rally on 8-9 April.