Matt Edwards and co-driver Darren Garrod won their first ever Prestone MSA British Rally Championship round at the recent Pirelli International Rally (Saturday 28 April). Driving the latest Ford Fiesta R5 for Cumbrian firm M-Sport, the pair from Wales netted their dream result by 20.5 seconds to launch their championship campaign.
The Welsh duo didn’t have it all their own way as young gun Rhys Yates and navigator Elliott Edmondson in a Skoda Fabia R5 stormed to their best BRC result with second. Reigning champions Keith Cronin and Mikie Galvin made it a three-way fight for victory in a new Hyundai i20 R5 with the Irish crew eventually finishing third – making it three different marques of cars on the first podium of the year.
The opening round of the eagerly anticipated 60th anniversary year got underway with 80 fast and furious gravel miles through the legendary Kielder Forest. Starting from the Pirelli factory in Carlisle, the BRC crews were cheered into the eight-stage event by the Mayor of Carlisle, Trish Vasey, local MP John Stevenson and thousands of spectators.
The English round of the series always provides drama aplenty and this instalment was no different as the first stage claimed its first victims – David Bogie and John Rowan. Driving for Carlisle-based firm CA1 Sport, Bogie rolled his DMACK-supported Skoda Fabia R5 out of contention. Thankfully both crew members were left unscathed but this paved a way for their rallying rivals.
Reigning champions Keith Cronin and Mikie Galvin put their new Hyundai i20 R5 through its paces on the Cumbrian gravel. Cronin began his quest for a fifth title – to match series history maker Jimmy McRae – in fine fashion. The Michelin-supported star initially held the lead before an on-form Edwards mounted his charge. Suffering with a lack of competitive miles in the new car, Cronin struggled with pace in the afternoon loop and went too tight to a chicane bale and had to reverse to get going again – haemorrhaging time to the top two.
Matt Edwards and Darren Garrod lost out on their first BRC win by one tenth of a second last season, and the Welsh pair were out to set the record straight in 2018. Reeling in Cronin throughout the morning, Edwards fired into the lead and never looked back, punching in five out of eight fastest times in the Swift Group Fiesta to clinch an emotional first win in Britain’s premier rallying series. Edwards’ win also provided Pirelli a much coveted home win in the process
After a strong run on the European championship round in the Azores, Rhys Yates continued his excellent form in his brand new Skoda Fabia R5. Showing speed and consistency throughout the day, the Derbyshire-based driver hunted down Cronin in the closing stages, overhauling the Irishman with a fastest time on stage eight to clinch second by just 1.3 seconds – and in the process his BRC result to date.
Fellow Skoda Fabia R5 driver Marty McCormack and co-driver David Moynihan came out of the blocks on the opening stage to sit second but soon after discovered gearbox gremlins. With no spare, and limited time to rectify any problems the Irishman adopted a mechanically sympathetic approach to bring his Kumho-shod Skoda Fabia R5 into a well earned fourth.
Rounding out the top five was Jonny Greer, contesting his tenth Pirelli Rally – this time in his recently-acquired Ford Fiesta R5. The Pirelli-supported driver with Kirsty Riddick calling the notes gathered momentum with every stage mile to secure fifth at the end of their first loose surface event in the car – a solid start to their championship campaign.
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