Rhys Yates became the first British driver to win the Rally van Wervik when he led the Belgian event from start to finish in his Brettex-backed ŠKODA Fabia R5.

Co-driven by Elliott Edmondson, Yates – who wears a Stilo WRC DES Carbon Piuma supplied by Nicky Grist Motorsports – was surprised to be leading the Protyre MSA Asphalt Rally Championship round outright after the opening stage. He drove faultlessly over the entire 60 stage mile event and recorded three more fastest stage times, including on the 12th and final stage, to win by 41.1 seconds. It was the perfect dress rehearsal, ahead of the next round of the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship in Ypres.

It was also a great event for the Carlisle-based CA1 Sport team, as Yates’ stable-mate David Bogie was the second British driver home in seventh – he and co-driver John Rowan missing out on sixth place by just 0.3 seconds in their Brasswell Developments/Pallet Force Fabia R5.

“We didn’t expect to win, not at all,” said Yates. “After the first stage Elliott and I were laughing that we’d taken the stage win, because we really couldn’t believe it – and it just went on from there. We were here to get better on asphalt and get better in Belgium, so each stage I just wanted to drive better and be more comfortable. After about stage three or four I thought that if we could keep banging out stages like that, then yes, I thought we could win this. We didn’t have any moments, it all felt comfortable from start to finish, and that’s good for my confidence going forward.”