OSIAN Pryce was ‘gutted’ after his Roger Albert Clark (RAC) Rally ended in disappointment because of a lack of oil.

The Machynlleth driver and co-driver Rhodri Evans led the way after day one of the five-day marathon event in his Mk2 Escort ahead of World Rally stars Kris Meek and Oliver Solberg.

Osian Pryce (left) and co-driver for the RAC Rally, Rhodri Evans enjoy a cuppa in service
Osian Pryce (left) and co-driver for the RAC Rally, Rhodri Evans enjoy a cuppa in service (Photos and video courtesy of Gary Jones)

Solberg from Norway cut Pryce’s lead down to a mere one second at the end of the day after a storming drive in the Newtown-based Phil Mills Viking Motorsport prepared Escort on the final Walters Arena stage.

Kris Meek who was also mixing the action with Osian was forced out of the running with engine trouble in the NC Emlyn based Wales Motorsport prepared Escort in the second half of the day, the West Wales team also lost Aberystwyth co-driver Patrick Walsh after engine trouble on their escort with it bellowing out smoke on the opening stage of the day.

Pryce dropped to second place at the end of day two just behind Solberg but had to retire on SS17 after the rally moved on to the Scottish stages on day three.

Pryce said: “Probably the most gutted I’ve been in a very long time.

“After reading a lot of the comments, speculating what actually happened, I think it’s best to explain to protect the reputation of those involved.

Osian Pryce makes a splash in the Sweet Lamb / Hafren stage
Osian Pryce makes a splash in the Sweet Lamb / Hafren stage (Photos and video courtesy of Gary Jones)

“From early on in the rally we had an oil leak that we were managing, and during SS17 got rapidly worse.

“Oil was leaking out and touching the hot exhaust and giving out a lot of blue smoke as was clearly seen.

“Our rally came to an end due to a lack of oil not engine failure. Two very different things.

“The reason for not continuing was that there’s a chance of internal damage in these kind of situations. Even though we turned everything off in enough time, it wouldn’t be wise going any further and create an even bigger mess.

“I’d like to say a huge thanks to everyone from the RallyXtreme team for keeping us going and giving me the tools for the job to put such a performance together on the stages in such a great car.

“Thanks to all of my sponsors who all pulled together and helped me make this rally possible in such a short space of time. Very grateful to all of you for your support. We will go again soon I’m sure.

“Thanks for all the support from the spectators, followers, marshals, volunteers, our families and friends on the stages too. It’s been a breath of fresh air for UK rallying to see an event packed with spectators again. What a spectacle it’s been.

“The final word has to go out to the man sat in next to me. No testing at all, never called a single pacenote to me before, with also big shoes to fill.

“He decided to jump up to this level, one of the hardest events and there we were fastest on SS1, leading the rally at the end of the day and well in the fight for the rally before we retired. Take a bow Rhodri Evans.”

After the ceremonial start in Carmarthen on Wednesday evening, the cars headed to the first of the forest stages on Thursday morning in Crychan near Llandovery, Cefn and the Walters Arena near Glynneath.

The Friday stages began near Llandovery with Esger Berfedd in the Crychan forest before they moved to stages just east of Aberystwyth at Myherin and Sweet Lamb / Hafren for the reminder of the day.

Then it was the long trip up to the new event base at Carlisle for the rest of the rally, with three days of racing in the Kielder forests as well as the iconic stages near Dumfries some not used for many years.

Marty McCormack and Barney Mitchell led the way headed into Monday’s final stages with the final stage a monster 39-mile long stage in Pundershaw Kielder.

The longest gravel stage for 40 years in UK rallying history, the slightest mistake could have big consequences.