Rhys Yates: My first Rally car


The story of Rhys Yates’ first rally car is pretty typical.

It was bought from the drummer of a multi award-winning rock band. And had its windscreen smashed the first time it was driven by the Briton!

There really wasn’t a dull moment for that Suzuki Swift. It arrived as part of a plan to get Yates and his brother James off motocross bikes and out of fracture clinics up and down Britain.

“JJ (James) and I were riding the bikes and we were getting injured a fair bit,” said Yates. “Dad had a track day car and he reckoned it would be a good idea for us to get one as well.”

The Swift rally car duly arrived and was an immediate hit with the Yates boys.

“I’d never sat in a car with bucket seats and proper belts,” said Rhys. “Soon as I got in it, I absolutely loved it. Strapped in, it felt like I was doing 200mph (320kph) before I’d even put the key in the ignition.”

Getting the key into the ignition and waking up the 120 horses beneath the bonnet wasn’t necessarily the best idea.

“I drove it out of home,” said Yates, “feeling really cool, then bang. What the…? I didn’t know anything about bonnet pins. I’d never seen a bonnet pin in my life, so how could I have known about fastening them. The bonnet had flown up and smashed the screen.

“The first place I took the car? The garage to get a new screen fitted!”

After a single-venue event at Blyton Airfield, it was time to get serious and head up to the Cambrian Rally, a British national event which utilises Rally GB stages Penmachno and Clocaenog.

“I really didn’t have much of a clue what I was doing,” said Yates. “I’d done the Blyton event and enjoyed that and then the Cambrian was next. We had [route] notes and my co-driver was telling me all this stuff in the stages, I didn’t have a clue what he was on about.

“That’s where that picture was taken. I’m looking pretty happy with life, aren’t I? And what on earth am I doing wearing my gloves in the service area!”

That was seven years ago. The Swift lasted three events before it was replaced by the first of a few Fiestas. Fiestas which kept getting faster and faster.

“The Swift was a good first car,” said Yates. “It was good fun and, like I said, when I was all strapped in, it felt really rapid!”

And the rock star angle?

“My dad bought it off Neil Primrose (Travis drummer),” he said. “I never met him, but he did chuck us a load of spares in – not that we knew what to do with them at the time.”

How times have changed. As one of British rallying’s brightest hopes, Yates has risen through the ranks to compete in this year’s WRC 2 series in a factory-prepared Fiesta Rally2 MkII.


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