Edwards takes BRC glory at the Grist
Matt Edwards got his third Motorsport UK British Rally Championship title chase back on track last weekend (10 July), taking a hard-fought win at the second round of the series, the Nicky Grist Stages.
Edwards and co-driver Darren Garrod took their Pirelli-shod Volkswagen Polo GTi to a five-second victory over fellow Welshman Tom Cave after a thrilling eight-stage battle. Cave, guided by Dale Furniss, adapted quickly to their new Ford Fiesta Rally2 to finish seven seconds ahead of Osian Pryce and Noel O’ Sullivan in their Michelin rubbered Volkswagen Polo GTi.
World-class stages greeted a stellar BRC entry for the Welsh gravel encounter, and the Epynt Military ranges provided the ultimate battle for supremacy on the first gravel round of the season. Despite stopping the clocks of the opening stage down in fourth spot, two-time British champion Edwards wasted no time in stamping his authority on the top of the timesheets, recording five fastest stage times during the remainder of the day.
Osian Pryce and Tom Cave would also enjoy a spell at the top of the leaderboard but it was Edwards who would take the initiative in Crychan to emerge ahead of the chasing pack heading into the mid-point service halt. But despite a late charge from Pryce on the final test, Edwards was never going to be overhauled, as he secured his first victory of the season and the first for the Volkswagen Polo Gti in the British Rally Championship – ending a 21-year drought for the German marque. Edwards now heads the BRC standings after fourth place at the season opener.
“This is just fantastic, it’s hard to find the words,” said Edwards.
“It just means the world at the moment. There is so much going on behind the scenes and it’s such a relief as much as anything to have the pace in a different car and different team. It was close all day really, and we had no tyres left, to be honest. We tried to save them through Halfway and then front-to-back them, but it was such hard work in there.”
“We had a few issues to overcome with the car, but it's been an awesome job by the team. I have to say a huge thank you to Yuasa and Swift Group for sticking by me in the last eighteen months whilst everything gets going, and this is a perfect reward for everybody’s hard work”.
Rhys Yates/James Morgan were the leading M-Sport crew home in fourth. Having set the third fastest time on the opener, Yates’ Fiesta Rally2 could never quite live with the leaders as a warning light issue hampered progress.
Making a welcome return to the BRC, M-Sport’s Matthew Wilson contested his first championship round since 2016 and with Stuart Loudon in the co-drivers seat, enjoyed a solid run to fifth in a Fiesta Rally2.
Adding to a star-studded entry list, four-time BRC champion Keith Cronin made a strong start to his latest campaign in sixth driving his Hankook-backed Fiesta Rally2. Cronin and co-driver Mikie Galvin built their pace gradually throughout the day to bag a confidence-boosting run on Cronin’s first event behind the wheel since 2018.
The Moffett brothers enjoyed a close-cut battle for seventh, with Josh taking the family rivalry honours as he and co-driver Andy Hayes grabbed seventh in their Hyundai i20. Winning the opening round at Oulton Park, Sam Moffett and Keith Moriarty secured eighth in their Fiesta Rally2.
The National Rally Title fight was dominated by Elliot Payne and Cameron Fair in their Ford Fiesta. With scintillating stage times throughout the day, their pace would be good enough for sixth overall in the BRC top-flight and the category win by 23 seconds from second-placed Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson in their Fiesta WRC. Garry Pearson/Niall Burns manhandled their Mitsubishi Evo IX to third and the final podium spot.
With the competition as close as ever, the Junior BRC contingent were eager to maintain their opening round momentum, however round one winners William Creighton and Liam Regan couldn’t quite make it two from two. Battling with fellow Ford Fiesta Rally4 crew Ruairi Bell/Gareth Parry, Creighton ended his rally in the Welsh shrubbery, allowing Bell to storm to his maiden Junior BRC victory. Finlay Retson/Rhys Stoneman enjoyed their first podium of the season to take second, with Kyle White/Sean Topping taking yet another sensational result in their Peugeot 208 to round out the podium spots.
Continuing in the forests, round three will see the British Rally Championship head to Scotland for the Grampian Forest Rally near Aberdeen in August.