The aim was to finish the ORLEN 79th Rally Poland – after all, this was Osian Pryce’s first rally for seven months, in a new team, in a new car and with a new co-driver – and he achieved precisely that with a pitch-perfect, controlled, intelligent and drama free run to 16th on his FIA European Rally Championship debut (out of 58 registered ERC drivers).
As the reigning British rally champion, Pryce is by nature an extremely competitive sportsman who competes to win.
But on this occasion learning about his brand new Škoda Fabia Rally2, building a rapport with new co-driver Stéphane Prévot and getting to know his new MAPO Motorsport team were the key objectives – and that would be best achieved by completing all 16 stages and 113 stage miles (182kms).
The 30-year-old Machynlleth-born driver had contested Rally Poland (which is located in the Masurian lake district town of Mikołajki, a three-hour drive north of the capital Warsaw) three times before when it was a round of the FIA World Rally Championship, but not since 2017.
It was also Pryce’s first rally since last September’s Trackrod Rally Yorkshire, an event which he won and clinched the 2022 British Rally Championship title – and the challenge of this year’s Rally Poland wasn’t made any easier when he started the event running first car on the road.
This meant that there weren’t any lines for Pryce to follow and he was chief sweeper when it came to moving the worst of the loose gravel off the racing line.
Despite the temptation to push hard and potentially risk going off the road, the Michelin Talent Factory driver stuck to his game plan to learn the car, fine tune the settings and even adjust his driving style to complete both a tricky opening day and to increase his pace on day two – without putting a scratch on the car.
His reward was a strong finish, invaluable ERC experience, a mountain of data to analyse and the respect of his new co-driver and team for a difficult job extremely well executed.
“I’m reasonably happy with the way we’ve performed on my first European Rally Championship event,” said Pryce.
“Everything was new for me – the car, team and co-driver – plus it was my first event for seven months, so getting to the finish was the main aim and we’ve achieved that.
“Running first on the road on day one was tricky, especially stages three and four which had a really loose surface and nothing like I’ve ever driven on in the UK.
“It was essential that we got through day one without a problem and as expected it proved to be extremely valuable seat time. I wasn’t too comfortable in the car at the start of the event, and we made a lot of set up changes to the Fabia as the event went along.
“Not every adjustment took us in the right direction, but even the changes that we made that didn’t work helped us learn more about the car.
“On day two we were around one second per kilometre off the pace of the fastest drivers and with all things considered that isn’t too bad.
“I’m a competitive person, but I had to respect the situation that we were in here – and against some extremely talented drivers who have had a great deal more seat time than I have this year, our stage times weren’t too bad at all.
“We could have pushed a lot harder over the final loop of stages, but the roads were so rough by then and having come so far we didn’t want to risk throwing away a strong result. Instead, we leave Poland with a strong finish and a good amount of data to analyse. It’s certainly great to be back competing on a rally and I’d like to thank everyone who has helped me get here.”
Pryce’s next ERC outing will be the Tet Rally Liepāja in Latvia (17-18 June).