|Jason Pritchard taking on the Great Orme stage in his Subaru Impreza|
Jason Pritchard was denied in his quest of securing his best ever finish in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) this weekend. A calamitous error of judgement by officials and marshals meant he was forced to retire during Stage 16 at the start of the Sweet Lamb. A ‘jump’ on the stage, which also ruined fellow Welshman Elfyn Evans Rally, should have been brought to all drivers’ attention on approach, however this didn’t happen and Pritchard’s previous good form over the first two days unfortunately counted for nothing.
Jason Pritchard was going great guns in the Wales Rally GB, until his North Road Garage backed Subaru Impreza landed in the dangerous hole on Stage 16 and ended his attempt to record his best-ever result in his home Rally. Pritchard was 18th overall and 3rd in the Production World Rally Championship (PWRC), and when he was forced to retire, 2nd place was very much in his sight:
“I’m distraught that we couldn’t finish the race, I understand how testing this sport is and understand the consequences of driving at the speed we do, but this shouldn’t have been allowed to happen. We had been warned throughout the rally about dangerous landings after the jumps and we approached these stages in a controlled manner, however there was no warning about the situation on stage 16 – you only have to look at how myself and the other drivers went out to see that the marshals should have been slowing us down – it was crazy!”
Pritchard who was joined by co-driver Dale Furniss escaped the incident unhurt and Furniss also used his initiative to warn other drivers about the hole by waving the cars to slow down as they approached the jump, it was clear that his actions had saved a number of cars from following Pritchard’s fate but unbelievably Furniss was told he shouldn’t be slowing the drivers down:
“Dale reacted like anyone would’ve, he jumped out and warned approaching drivers to slow down, something the marshals should’ve been doing – I can’t believe they told him to stop the warning – we would’ve made it to the Sunday and the finish if someone was warning us.”
This year's Wales Rally GB included a considerably revised route compared to previous years - following a Ceremonial Start in Llandudno, Thursday’s stages were on the spectacular winding cliff-face road around the Great Orme headland on the North Welsh coastline - a stage not used on the event for 30 years. The 1150-mile Rally ventured southwards with the high speed action on many of Wales' most renowned forest stages and the event culminated with a Ceremonial Finish in Cardiff on the Sunday.
Pritchard made steady progress throughout the first few days, the start on the tarmac during the Great Orme stage was understandably cautious but Pritchard made good time through the gravel stage on the Friday which saw him finish the day 4th in the PWRC. On Saturday the 23-year-old from Builth Wells really stepped up a gear and made great progress throughout the morning and he moved up to 3rd place, with 2nd place a real possibility as he put pressure and gained time on the top two drivers:
“I was feeling very relaxed during Saturday’s stages, we were really up on the pace and I could feel myself getting quicker as the day progressed. That’s why it hurt so much to go out the race in the manner that we did.
“2011 has been quite unlucky and this incident kind of summed up how it’s gone. However, I’m taking the positives from how we finished the year and I know that I would’ve secured my highest finish this weekend if I hadn’t had the incident. 2012 is going to be a big year for me and I’m confident that my level of performance will only get stronger and I can’t wait to get behind the wheel again.”Pritchard is planning to keep busy and intends to finish the year by working closely with his Communications team and external designers to build a new website that will be capable of holding blogs and video footage, allowing fans and the media to get closer access to the young Welshman. The website launch, expected to be before Christmas this year, will also co-inside with a new logo as Pritchard updates his look and feel away from the car