MATT EDWARDS: GIANTKILLER I
Joining a tough BRC crowd, star man has faced adversity before. By Jack Benyon
t’s in the face of adversity that a person’s breaking point will be tested to the limit. For Matt Edwards that came on November 11, 2014. The Roger Albert Clark Rally.
On the final day, the clerk of the course discovered a notepad containing pre-event research in co-driver Paul Morris’ bag. They were thrown out of the lead and the event despite having unmarked maps. They also offered all their onboard videos from the event to the clerk to prove the notebook hadn’t been used, as the event doesn’t allow pacenotes. They were given the chance to check in early and take a penalty at the final checkpoint, or carry on and risk exclusion. Edwards elected to continue.
Without a special moment between Edwards and long-term backer and friend Peter Smith, this feature would be about a driver whose career had ended. Not beginning.
Now Edwards has clinched the British Rally Championship’s BRC 2 division in his Swift Caravansbacked Mitsubishi Lancer E9, he is only looking forwards.
“If it wasn’t for Pete being there when it was all unfolding, giving me a hug when I was in bits, I reckon I’d have stopped rallying there and then,” says Edwards. “I’ll never forget what he said: ‘you won’t be judged on what’s happened, it’s how you deal with it after’. And that was something that will stay with me.”
Edwards had been to the crew who were second – Matthew Robinson and Sam Collis – to tell them the situation, as Edwards explains: “I didn’t want [Robinson] going hell for leather trying to pull back 20s on us if we knew we were going to get excluded anyway. Sam is one of my best mates and he was the best man at my wedding. I didn’t want him getting hurt and Robbo too. I love competition: that’s what we all do it for at the end of the day.”
And that could have so easily been the end of the career for Edwards, but thanks to Smith and his family, he was back for more in the new year.
Speaking of family, that’s where Edwards’ rally story started. His father – Alyn – is the Cambrian clerk of the course and Wales Rally GB organiser, not to mention former national rallying competitor. It wasn’t long before Matt was following in his father’s footsteps. He took to the stages for the first time back in 2004 in a Vauxhall Astra.
“I bought the shell without telling my dad,” he recalls. “The first thing he heard about it was that we needed a trailer to go and pick it up.”
The Astra was a successful proving ground for Edwards. After a handful of events in 2005, he won his class in the ANWCC championship and in 2007 he conquered the BTRDA B8 class for eight-valve 1400-litre cars. It was where his David-and-goliath reputation began.
After successful one-offs in Geoff Jones’ cars – who Edwards worked with at the time – it was time for a step up and Edwards took on a young Craig Breen in the Fiesta Trophy in the BRC in 2009. While Edwards was working for M-sport rebuilding Breen’s gearboxes, he was assembling his own Fiesta in a three-sided barn from discarded parts. It went pretty well.
“We were second on the Malcolm Wilson, the first round, and we won the Bulldog,” adds Edwards. “Craig Breen had done the recce and was doing the international event, we did the rally on the tyres we finished the Malcolm Wilson on and beat him on every stage. Craig was quite new to it.
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