EDWARDS GETS SWIFT FIESTA R5 FOR BRC
Twyford Stages Rally
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.