Twyford Stages Rally

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Matt Ed­wards will step up to the top class of the Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship with a Ford Fi­esta R5, start­ing with Au­gust’s Ul­ster Rally.

The Welsh­man sealed the BRC 2 cham­pi­onship on the Nicky Grist Stages ear­lier this month, and thanks to a deal be­tween DMACK, M-sport and long-term spon­sor Swift Group, he’ll join the likes of El­fyn Evans and Tom Cave in BRC 1 for the fi­nal two rounds of the 2016 sea­son ahead of a full cam­paign in the ma­chine next year.

“It’s a big re­lief,” said Ed­wards of the op­por­tu­nity. “I’ve put every­thing I’ve had into this for so many years. I haven’t achieved what I wanted to achieve yet, but I’ve got the chance at achiev­ing what I want to.”

Ed­wards has con­sis­tently beaten R5-spec cars in his pro­duc­tion class Mit­subishi Lancer E9, and made a one-off ap­pear­ance in an R5 in May for the DMACK Carlisle Stages. The car was en­tered as an R5+, which has a big­ger re­stric­tor than a stan­dard R5, but in fact the car was run­ning to R5 Evo spec­i­fi­ca­tion.

He was lead­ing the event ahead of Desi Henry – who fin­ished third over­all on the last two rounds of the BRC – by 14s be­fore a tech­ni­cal prob­lem ruled him out. Ed­wards is now hop­ing that he can show his abil­ity in a top-class car, a chance he never thought he’d get.

“I’ll find out what I’ve al­ways wanted to know, even if it’s four or five years too late, whether we can do it at this level,” added Ed­wards, who will con­tinue to be co-driven by Will Rogers. “We’ve done a lot in lesser cars but never had the best ma­chin­ery.”

Reg­u­lar na­tional rally com­peti­tor Peter Smith, who is chair­man of Swift Car­a­vans, is con­tin­u­ing to sup­port Ed­wards be­cause of the ef­fort he puts into com­pet­ing.

“He puts every­thing he can into it,” said Smith, fa­ther of 2003 Le Mans win­ner Guy. “He’s got the only self-built car in the top 15 of the BRC. No­body else is work­ing all night putting every­thing he has into his car to pre­pare it on his own. Against a lot of ad­ver­sity he’s come out on top, I think he’ll do re­ally well and that’s why I want to help him.

“I’ve never given him enough [to com­pete]. I’ve al­ways given him a lit­tle bit, but he’s had to go and find the rest.”

Swift has a his­tory in ral­ly­ing dat­ing back to the 1970s with the likes of Ron Beer­croft, an MN Road Rally cham­pion.

“Swift are de­lighted to be launch­ing the Swift Rally Car and con­tin­u­ing our sup­port of Matt,” said Nick Page, group com­mer­cial di­rec­tor. “We have had a long and suc­cess­ful as­so­ci­a­tion with the world of ral­ly­ing and 2017 once again prom­ises to be a very ex­cit­ing year.”

But he’d done more ral­lies than I’d done in my ca­reer.”

De­spite the Vaux­hall, Fi­esta and Subaru us­age, Ed­wards is most com­monly as­so­ci­ated with his Lancer E9, per­haps for his per­for­mances in 2012 in the BTRDA where he fin­ished sec­ond. That was fol­low­ing on from a 1400 cham­pi­onship ti­tle, with a ninth over­all fin­ish on the Cam­brian which war­ranted a sec­ond place in MN’S best gravel mo­ment of the year award.

But one of his ab­so­lute ca­reer high­lights came in 2013 on the Track­rod Rally. Af­ter mak­ing a switch to a his­toric Es­cort at the end of 2012, he took on Steve Ban­nis­ter – who’s in dou­ble fig­ures for wins on the event – and beat him in his own back­yard.

“A lot of the pres­sure I’ve been un­der on var­i­ous events since then, I al­ways come back to that day,” says Ed­wards. “I don’t think I’ll ever feel that un­der pres­sure again. Ban­nis­ter was play­ing all sorts of tricks, go­ing into the last stage, every­one was say­ing ‘you may be 16s ahead now but you’ll be 16s down com­ing out of the stage’. All that sort of stuff. He only had one sec­ond off us.

“The enor­mity of what I was about to do was quite stress­ful. To beat Ban­nis­ter on his home patch was a big thing, for me not to have been an Es­cort man and to have got used to the car in a year, that was one of my big­gest achieve­ments in my book.”

Af­ter the R.A.C. in­ci­dent in 2014, Ed­wards suf­fered a huge crash while co-driv­ing for Ge­orge Le­p­ley on the Mal­colm Wil­son early in 2014. That cur­tailed his run­ning, but he made the choice to re­turn to the BRC over the BHRC for 2016. And a BRC 2 cham­pi­onship fol­lowed, again in a self-built car.

He’s over­come enough ad­ver­sity to last a life­time. Like many driv­ers at a grass­roots level, Ed­wards has forged a path ir­rel­e­vant of salary or fund­ing. He com­petes be­cause he loves the sport, and has worked hard to reach this po­si­tion.

Next year he’ll face the ad­ver­sity of his strong­est com­pe­ti­tion yet. But if any­one is ready for the chal­lenge, Ed­wards is. ■

Or­gan­iser: Mid Der­byshire MC When: July 17 Where: Twyford Wood, Lin­colnshire Cham­pi­onships: ANEMMC; ANCC; EMAMC; ANWCC Stages: 8 Starters: 65

David Welch and Con­nor Tol­son lost their lead on stage two af­ter a costly punc­ture, but sealed vic­tory on the fi­nal test when Andy Rowe and Cat Lund suf­fered a sim­i­lar fate.

Welch’s Im­preza had a 13-sec­ond edge over Rowe’s Mit­subishi Lancer E2 on the opener, but the leader’s sec­ond-stage punc­ture dropped him to fifth be­hind Rowe, Ian Tiffany/ Gra­ham White (Im­preza), Adrian/ Lind­sey Baker (Es­cort) and Chris/ James Greenall (Nova).

By the end of stage three, Welch was back to the run­ner-up spot, 49s off the lead, which con­tin­ued to be chipped away un­til Rowe punc­tured on stage six. Into the fi­nal stage the deficit was down to four sec­onds, but Rowe picked up another de­fla­tion, hand­ing Welch vic­tory by 38s.

Tiffany re­tained a com­fort­able third from stage three, but with Greenall re­tir­ing on stage five, fourth be­came an Es­cort duel be­tween Adrian Baker and his son Dean Baker, who was be­ing co-driven by Andy Fal­coner. Both had a cou­ple of spins but Dean had the edge un­til his new en­gine let him down on the very last stage.

Ed­wards has cel­e­brated BRC 2 cham­pi­onship suc­cess Will Rogers will join Ed­wards in Ul­ster and for 2017 This is how Ed­wards’ Swift Fi­esta will look

Mid Wales Stages win in 2010 MG stint was a suc­cess­ful one

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