Matt Edwards has won the British Rally Championship drivers’ title for a record-breaking third time in a row after taking his Yuasa Rally Team Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 to a sensational victory on the Modern Tyres Ulster Rally (Saturday 20 November).
Overnight and midday rain made the fast and bumpy closed country lanes of County Down extremely slippery, yet Matt never put a scratch on the car as he won the 94-stage mile event by over two and a half minutes!
Whilst Matt writes his name into the BRC record books, Darren Garrod wins the co-drivers title for a second time, having also guided Matt to his first title in 2018.
The Ulster Rally saw an incredible fight between Matt and his Melvyn Evans Motorsport stablemate and BRC title rival Osian Pryce.
Taking Pirelli slick tyres, Matt blasted through the opening damp loop to lead by 7.4 seconds at first service in Newry.
A heavy shower of rain after the second loop had started forced a more cautious approach, with Matt losing the lead after SS5 – only to regain it after a stunning drive through SS6 gave him an 8.3 second advantage.
For the final loop Matt went out on Pirelli wets and extended his lead to 9.1 seconds after the third and final pass of the 8.98-mile McGaffin’s Corner test (SS7).
The final run over the longest 13.47-mile Bronte Homeland stage (SS8) was always going to be significant and anticipating a big attack Matt drove a faultless stage to set the fastest time.
It wasn’t until he’d completed the penultimate stage did Matt discover that Osian had crashed mid-way through the test.
Matt still had to finish the event and score maximum BRC points to secure the title and a cool drive through the final 8.81-mile Shinn Bridge stage brought him his third BRC drivers’ crown.
“My mindset for the Ulster Rally was simple – just go as fast as we can on every stage and try to win. Nothing less would have given us the title,” said Matt.
“I knew that the stage that Osian went off on was probably make or break for him. He had to do something special in there and my goal on the penultimate stage was to not give him any opportunity to take a big chunk of time off me.
“The conditions were very tricky and we obviously didn’t know at the time that he’d unfortunately gone off as we were first on the road, but we really nailed the stage that time – really clean, tidy, fast and committed. I felt sure we’d done enough before the news come through.
“The title wasn’t won yet of course as we still had to finish the event and score maximum BRC points, and there was just massive relief inside the car when we crossed the finish line of the last stage!
“To win three British rally tiles in a row is very special, but what makes it even more special for me is that it’s been in the making for two years.
“Because of Covid we’ve had to work hard to ensure everyone remained engaged with the programme and to make sure the opportunity to win the British title three times in a row was still on when competition was allowed to restart.
“It hasn’t been an easy two years. Performance-wise I’ve had to keep on top of my game even when there haven’t been any rallies to do. I’ve also had to make sure the sponsors stayed engaged, I had to find a new car, I had to find a team to run it – all the things you do behind the scenes, I’ve had to maintain that level of focus, ambition and motivation in myself and in others for two years.
“But everyone has remained extremely loyal and stayed with the programme and it’s all thanks to Yuasa, TPS, Swift, Speedline Wheels, Nicky Grist Motorsport and Melvyn Evans Motorsport for making this year such a huge success.
“So many people had faith in me and together we went out and achieved British Rally Championship history.
“It hasn’t all been plain sailing this year. I made a mistake on Mull, which could have written off our title challenge, and our issue on the Cambrian could have certainly ended it.
“It’s too easy to park the car up when something goes wrong, but when you have so many people involved behind the scenes you have to think of the incredible effort that they’ve all put in too. I’m the guy they’ve entrusted to deliver on their investment and it’s a big responsibility. I never give up and those points scored finishing Mull and the Cambrian turned out to be crucial, as we knew they would.
“After the Cambrian I knew that I had to retake control of the situation. We’d had problems, some of our own making, and enough was enough. I was in such a good place physically and mentally going into the final round in Ulster that there was never any doubt in my mind that we’d be British champions again. It didn’t happen exactly how I’d dreamt it, but it happened!
“Despite the very tricky conditions on the Ulster Rally, we’ve pushed hard and won without putting a scratch on the car – which is back to normal in that respect, because I absolutely hate damaging a rally car!
“We’ve had the pace all year. A few things haven’t gone as planned, but we always believed winning the British title would happen.
“Everyone knows how much the British Rally Championship means to me and I’m very proud to have won the title three times in a row.”
Matt Edwards pulls off the impossible with magnificent Mull Rally comeback to keep third BRC title challenge on track
Matt Edwards produced one of the most extraordinary comebacks in the history of the British Rally Championship when he fought back from 143rd overall and last of the BRC competitors to finish fifth overall and score second place BRC points on the Beatson’s Building Supplies Mull Rally (8-10 October) in his Yuasa Rally Team Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.
His first appearance on the famous asphalt event, held on the Isle of Mull in the Scottish Inner Hebrides, didn’t start well, as he uncharacteristically approached a tightening left hand corner near the start of SS1 too fast.
Matt pulled the handbrake so the Yuasa Battery, TPS and Swift Group-backed Polo R5 would hit the bank backwards and not damage the radiator or anything around the engine at the front of the car. Instead the heavy impact broke the rear right suspension.
He and co-driver Darren Garrod found a safe place to pull over and assess the damage and tied the broken suspension together using the spare wheel strap. Unfortunately, the brake disc had snapped and they had to complete the 6.77 mile Mishnish Lochs stage at slow speed – collecting a stage maximum time of 14 minutes and losing almost seven minutes to the fastest BRC crew.
From there the route went straight into SS2, forcing Matt to limp through the 14.51 mile Hill Road/Loch Tuath test as well, costing another six and a half minutes.
The Melvyn Evans Motorsport team were impressed that the 37-year-old Colwyn Bay driver had managed to make such an ingenious emergency repair and get the car back to first service, which was situated next to the ferry terminal in the village of Craignure. The BRC Teams’ trophy leading squad repaired the damage in the allotted 45 minute service and with new suspension and brakes the car headed back out.
Matt had lost almost 14 minutes in total, but with 15 stages and 127 stage miles remaining all was not lost and the fightback for BRC points was on.
Matt responded in the only way he knows how – by setting fastest BRC time on Friday’s remaining three night stages to move up to 80th overall by the overnight halt.
It’s not in Matt’s nature to feel sorry for himself and he came out fighting on Saturday afternoon at the start of a very tricky Leg 2 by achieving the near impossible and taking time off all the local drivers by setting overall fastest time on the opening two stages.
By the time he arrived in service in Tobermory for a second time Matt had five fastest BRC times and moved from last to sixth – this despite a half spin on SS10, during which he’d clipped a bank and dislodged the front bumper. Another brilliant overall fastest time on SS12 shot him up to fourth in the BRC category. However, he had his sights fixed on second place, even though the deficit to that position was over three minutes and there was only four stages and 46 stage miles remaining. He had also moved up to 13th overall by the end of Leg 2.
Matt had tested Pirelli slick tyres during Friday morning’s shakedown stage, even though conditions were wet at the time. But now with the roads drying and no rain forecast for the final night time leg, the data he’d gained 36 hours earlier gave him the confidence to use those tyres on the final loop.
On the opening stage of the final leg, Matt set a new record over Calgary Bay/Loch Tuath, which at 21.89 miles was the longest stage of the rally, by stopping the clocks 38.6secs faster than rally leaders and eventual overall winners Daniel Harper/Chris Campbell (Mini WRC). That truly incredible drive saw Matt leap up to eighth overall and third in the BRC.
After two more relatively short but very tricky stages, Matt was sixth overall and second in the BRC.
One more overall fastest time on the final stage – Matt’s ninth in 17 stages – saw him move up to a final position of fifth overall. More importantly, he’d gone from last to second in the BRC to keep his third straight title hopes very much alive.
“It’s almost even more special to get the result we have on Mull after what happened on the opening stage and to have picked myself up and fought back in the way we have. I think I’ve learned a lot about myself this weekend,” said Matt.
“I never give up. Never. But to tie the suspension together with the spare wheel strap and get out of the first two stages with no brakes and then perform in the way we did for the remainder of the rally highlights more than anything how much I want to win the British Rally Championship title again this year.
“I’ve been driving as fast as I could with the knowledge that I have of the Mull stages. Coming here for the first time is a big challenge and every time you drive a section of road you get to know it a little bit better. It’s very difficult to drive these roads at speed because they are so fast and technical and within every mile there is something trying to catch you out. But I’ve been committed to the pace notes and Darren’s done a great job – as has the Melvyn Evans Motorsport team.
“Despite our early drama and it being a long rally with two very tough night time sections I could keep going. I was enjoying driving the Polo so much and loving the challenge of the Mull roads that I’d have happily kept driving for another hundred and fifty stage miles!
“There are a lot of people behind the scenes who make this project happen and I just couldn’t let them down after my early mistake. I don’t do things like getting a corner so wrong and I’m proud that I was able to put it behind me and come straight back out fighting. And coming from 143rd to fifth overall, and from last to second in the BRC, isn’t too bad really, is it?!”
The next round of the British Rally Championship is Matt’s home round of the series, the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally on Saturday 30 October.
British Rally Championship – overall Drivers’ points after Round 5
1. Osian Pryce….96(J)pts
2. Matt Edwards….80pts
3. Matthew Wilson….53(J)pts
4. Rhys Yates….53(J)pts
5. Sam Moffett….37pts
6. Josh Moffett….24pts
Matt Edwards aims for something really special on his Mull debut – although British Rally Championship points will take priority.
Matt Edwards says that it would be “something really special” to go to the Beatson’s Building Supplies Mull Rally (8-10 October) and do well at his first attempt – although his priority will be his target of winning a third straight British Rally Championship title as he heads to the longest and most demanding round of the series in his Yuasa Rally Team Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.
Co-driven by Darren Garrod, Matt arrives in the form of his career, having dominated the recent Trackrod Rally Yorkshire by leading the event from start to finish and winning by a comfortable 32.8 seconds.
The Mull Rally will be Matt’s first closed road asphalt rally in his Yuasa Battery, TPS and Swift Group-backed Polo R5 and his first since the 2019 Ulster Rally – where he took maximum BRC points in a Ford Fiesta R5.
The 37-year-old Colwyn Bay driver tested the Polo R5 at night in Bala recently and was impressed with both its handling and the performance of the Pirelli tyres on cold asphalt.
For his first appearance on the Isle of Mull, which is the second largest island of the Scottish Inner Hebrides, preparation will once again be key to success – and Matt will leave nothing to chance as he gets ready for a crucial round of the BRC.
“I’ve never been to Mull before, so it’s a case of doing my homework, doing a really good recce and trusting the pace notes,” says Matt.
“The majority of the event is run at night and that should work in our favour because we know the pace notes work well in the dark. The Polo R5 is so good to drive and the Pirelli tyres are working really well and combined that gives me so much confidence. Mull will be a really big challenge, but I’m looking forward to it.
“It’s a very long event, the longest rally I’ve done for a while that’s for sure. Whilst it will be hard to maintain a flat-out pace from start to finish, it does give you the mileage to have a bit more of a game plan and to recover from any time loss.
“I’m not going to shy away from the fact that I want to win the rally, but winning the British Rally Championship title is paramount to me and that will be at the forefront of how we approach Mull. The Championship is looking good at the moment. We’ve already dropped a score and we’re still second in the standings, four points behind Osian [Pryce], so we need to keep scoring well to make sure we stay in charge of our own destiny.
“It would be something really special to go to Mull and do well on our first attempt. I’d be happy with a top three finish to be honest, but as regards the BRC there is only one position I want finish in, and that’s taking maximum points.”
Spread over three legs and containing 17 stages totalling 148 stage miles, the Beatson’s Building Supplies Mull Rally is the longest and most challenging round of this year’s British Rally Championship.
Leg 1 on Friday 8 October starts from Tobermory at 19.30 and contains five night time stages totalling 50 miles before the finish at 00.33. The rally re-starts from Garmony at 11.20 on Saturday 9 October, with a further eight stages totalling 51.5 miles all run in daylight, before Leg 2 ends at 16.51. The third and final leg starts from Salen at 21.30 the same night, with a final four stages totalling 46 miles all run in the dark. Leg 3 contains the Calgary Bay/Loch Tuath stage which at 21.89 miles is the longest of the rally. The finish of the event is back in Tobermory at 01.41 on Sunday 10 October.
Matt Edwards storms to a dominant British Rally Championship victory on the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire.
Matt Edwards stormed to a dominant victory on the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire (24-25 September), winning the 56 stage mile gravel forest event in his Yuasa Rally Team Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 by an incredible 32. 8 seconds – having set fastest time on five of the six stages.
It was Matt’s second win of the season and the result puts his British Rally Championship title challenge right back on track.
The key to success was a masterful performance over the event’s opening Friday night stage. Over the 11 mile high-speed blast through Dalby forest in the dark, Matt and co-driver Darren Garrod were 17.3 seconds quicker than their closest rivals to take a lead that they would never surrender.
With the pressure eased, Matt was able to enjoy driving the Yuasa Battery, TPS and Swift Group-backed Polo GTI R5 as the event restarted on Saturday morning.
It shouldn’t have been easy, especially against such top class opposition and running 111th on the road (behind historic and two-wheel drive cars), but with confidence high and the right Pirelli tyres for the conditions the 36-year-old Colwyn Bay driver was able to extend his advantage over the remaining five daylight stages.
He was over three seconds faster than anyone else over each of the Cropton, Gale Rigg and Staindale stages to arrive at mid-day service in Filey, on the North Yorkshire coast, after four stages with his lead increased to 28.6 seconds.
Matt was third fastest through the penultimate Langdale stage, before heading back into Dalby – where he set a time 14.8 seconds quicker than he’d been in the dark the night before to secure a truly remarkable BRC victory.
His Melvyn Evans Motorsport team Polo GTI hadn’t missed a beat – and with Matt fine-tuning the car’s set-up to his liking, his BRC bonus points-scoring Joker still to be played and the scores to drop working in his favour, he looks on course to win his third straight BRC drivers’ title.
“For me the Trackrod Rally began a week ago when I started going through the pace notes and the historical footage of the event to make sure we nailed the opening stage in the dark,” said Matt.
“A lot of work went into that stage and it was the key to building an early lead and taking the pressure off for when the rally restarted in daylight. And with the pressure off you can drive better and more freely. I just felt that I could play around with the car as it gave me so much more confidence and I was relaxed enough to drive well. I’m still learning the Polo R5, but it was fantastic to be able to drive the car in that way. Everything just clicked. The car worked well, we picked the right Pirelli tyres and it’s been a fairly effortless rally – which shows that everything worked as it should have.
“I’m obviously very pleased to win the event by such a big margin. It’s good leverage for the future. I want to go to Europe and do more events and it shows that the pace is there. There is always the bigger picture and for next year who knows?”
The next round of the British Rally Championship is the Beatson’s Building Supplies Mull Rally (8-9 October).
Trackrod Rally Yorkshire – top 10 finishers
1. Matt Edwards/Darren Garrod (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5)….53mins 17.0secs
2. Osian Pryce/Noel O Sullivan (Volkswagen Polo R5)….53mins 49.8secs
3. Matthew Wilson/Stuart Loudon (Ford Fiesta Rally2)….53mins 50.6secs
4. Ollie Mellors/Max Freeman (Proton Iriz R5)….55mins 07.2secs
5. Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson (Ford Fiesta)….55mins 41.3secs
6. Garry Jennings/Rory Kennedy (Ford Fiesta R5)….55mins 51.2secs
7. James Wilson/Arthur Kierans (Hyundai i20)….56mins 02.5secs
8. Garry Pearson/Niall Burns (Škoda Fabia)….56mins 11.4secs
9. Seb Perez/Gary McElhinney (Ford Fiesta Rally2)….56mins 34.0secs
10 Keith Cronin/Mikie Galvin (Ford Fiesta)….56mins 37.1secs
British Rally Championship – overall Drivers’ points after Round 4
1. Osian Pryce….66pts
2. Matt Edwards….62pts
3. Matthew Wilson….53(J)pts
4. Rhys Yates….53(J)pts
5. Sam Moffett….37pts
6. Josh Moffett….24pts
Matt Edwards ready to reignite his British Rally Championship title challenge on the Trackrod Rally Yorkshire.
Matt Edwards is ready to reignite his British Rally Championship title challenge when he drives his Yuasa Rally Team Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 on this weekend’s Trackrod Rally Yorkshire (24-25 September).
After a solid start to the series at Oulton Park, Matt took the lead of the BRC with victory on the Nicky Grist Stages, only to drop to third in the drivers’ standing after retiring on the Grampian Rally. With five best scores from seven events counting towards the title, Round 3 has been filed as one of the two mandatory dropped scores – and with Matt yet to nominate his bonus points scoring Joker round, his challenge for a third straight British rally title is very much still on track as he heads to the fast North Yorkshire forests.
For many years the Trackrod Rally was a permanent fixture in the BRC calendar, and now it makes its return to the series for the first time since 2013. It’s not a venue many drivers will have recent experience of, although Matt did contest the Trackrod Historic Cup in 2019, finishing runner-up in a Fiat 131 Abarth.
The corners will appear considerably quicker this time as he and co-driver Darren Garrod head back into the forests in their number one seeded Yuasa Battery, TPS, Swift Group and Pirelli-backed Polo GTI R5.
The event also signals the start of a hectic second half of the season, for just two weeks after the Trackrod Rally the Melvyn Evans Motorsport team will have to transform the Polo GTI R5 into asphalt spec for the Mull Rally (8-9 October). It will then be put back into gravel spec for Matt’s home round of the series, the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally (30 October), before another quick turnaround for the final Ulster Rally over the closed country lanes of Northern Ireland (20 November).
Matt continues to be busy between BRC rounds with his professional driving coaching operation, with his ability to tutor from the co-driver’s seat a skill which is in high demand. Aoife Raftery is the latest driver to benefit from this, with her improving stage times on last weekend’s Bushwhacker Rally in Northern Ireland, with Matt navigating and coaching, clear for all to see.
“I’m confident going into the Trackrod Rally that everything has been fixed with the car and the issues that we had last time out on the Grampian are well and truly behind us,” says Matt.
“We’ve changed the engine wiring loom and everything that you’d associate with a misfire, so I don’t think Melvyn [Evans] could have done more to fix the problem. We gave the Polo a shakedown in Bala last week. It was an asphalt test ahead of Mull, and we ran in the dark to test for both Mull and the Trackrod and everything worked well, so I have no reason to doubt things won’t be perfect from now on.
“I’m not sure if my recent experience of the North Yorkshire stages in a Fiat 131 Abarth will be a help or a hinderance. It’s given me a good feel for the area and I know where the bad bumps are in an historic car, but you probably won’t even feel those bumps in a Polo GTI R5. I’ve never done the Trackrod in such a capable four-wheel drive car and I’ve never done a recce of the stages either, so making good pace notes will be even more vital this time around. With most of the event single use, there will be no opportunity to amend the notes either, so they have to be perfect right from the word go.
“We certainly need a successful weekend. We’re a little on the back foot after retiring on the Grampian, but we know the speed is there and we know we can do what we need to do. The championship’s wide open, and a good result on the Trackrod will put us right back up there.”
The famous Trackrod Motor Club-organised event starts on Friday 24 September with 11.3 stage miles run in the dark through Dalby forest. The remaining 44.89 stage miles takes place in the daylight on Saturday 25 September on single use forest roads, with stages through Dalby and Cropton forests. The service area is located at the Filey Brigg Country Park, while the first car is expected to arrive at the finish in the seaside town of Filey at around 15.00.
Engine misfire denies Matt Edwards chance of Grampian Rally win, although British Rally Championship title hopes remain on song.
Matt Edwards’ hopes of challenging for victory on the Grampian Rally (Saturday 14 August) came to an end when an engine misfire halted his Yuasa Rally Team Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 whilst he was in a closing second position with two stages remaining – although his British Rally Championship title aspirations remain very much on song.
The double British Rally champion arrived at the event leading the drivers’ standings and was thus seeded at number one. Running first on the road was a distinct disadvantage, as the ferociously fast Durris, Fetteresso and Drumtochty forest roads near Aberdeen were covered in loose stones – meaning that Matt had to change his driving style to suit the conditions.
Despite this, he and co-driver Darren Garrod were third after the opening two stages, 13 seconds off leaders Matthew Wilson/Elliot Edmondson (Ford Fiesta Rally2), who were running a more favourable seventh on the road.
A few set up changes by the Melvyn Evans Motorsport team further fine-tuned the Polo GTI R5 for the Scottish terrain, enabling Matt to immediately move up to second on SS3 and cut the time deficit between him and the leaders to eight seconds.
Despite a misfire towards the end of SS4, Matt set equal fastest time with Wilson on that stage to come into the second and final service of the day hoping a fix would give him the opportunity to push hard and close in on a possible victory on the final two stages.
Unfortunately, the misfire got worse on the road section to SS5 and fearing that more serious mechanical problems would arise if he continued, Matt was forced to surrender his second place and retire from the event.
He does, however, remain very much in contention for the British Rally Championship title. Matt is third in the drivers’ table after three rounds, 11 points behind Osian Pryce and 12 points behind leader Rhys Yates, who has used his bonus points scoring Joker.
“Retiring on the Grampian Rally was a big disappointment,” admitted Matt.
“We made a big change to the car in first service and everything was working very well. The times on the middle group of stages showed that it was night and day better and we’d given ourselves a good chance of closing in for the win.
“At the end of stage four the engine started to misfire. We thought we’d cured the problem in service immediately after that, but on the road section to stage five it started to misfire again. We had taken spares with us, so we used a lot of our available time lateness to change the plugs and coil, but we couldn’t fix it.
“The car was getting extremely hot. The cockpit was filling up with smoke and with the risk of the car catching fire or causing some other serious mechanical damage it was too risky to carry on.
“I think the middle two stages in Scotland in particular proved what we and the car are capable of – so it’s a case of onwards and upwards and hope that we can carry that pace onto the Trackrod.”
The Trackrod Rally Yorkshire on 24-25 September hosts Round 4 of the British Rally Championship.
Grampian Rally – Top 10 overall
1. Matthew Wilson/Elliot Edmondson (Ford Fiesta Rally2)….38mins 49secs
2. Osian Pryce/Noel O’Sullivan (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5)….39mins 09secs
3. Rhys Yates/James Morgan (Ford Fiesta Mk2 R5)….39mins 27secs
4. Keith Cronin/Mikie Galvin (Ford Fiesta)….39mins 28secs
5. Josh Moffett/Andy Hayes (Ford Fiesta WRC)….40mins 17secs
6. Garry Pearson/Niall Burns (Škoda Fabia R5)….40mins 17secs
7. Cathan McCourt/Brian Hoy (Ford Fiesta Mk2 R5)….40mins 38secs
8. Jock Armstrong/Cameron Fair (Ford Fiesta)….40mins 42secs
9. Sam Moffett/Keith Moriarty (Ford Fiesta Rally2)….40mins 44secs
10. Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson (Ford Fiesta WRC)….40mins 57secs
British Rally Championship for Drivers’ – points after Round 3
1. Rhys Yates….49pts Joker
2. Osian Pryce….48pts
3. Matt Edwards….37pts
4. Sam Moffett….37pts
5. Matthew Wilson….35pts
6. Josh Moffett….24pts
Matt Edwards fully focused on extending British Rally Championship lead as series heads to ultra-fast Grampian Rally.
Matt Edwards is fully focused on extending his lead in the British Rally Championship, when he takes his Yuasa Rally Team Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 to the ultra-fast Grampian Rally (Saturday 14 August).
The double British Rally champion took the lead of the drivers’ standings after scoring a sensational victory last time out on the Nicky Grist Stages. He heads to Aberdeenshire three points ahead of Rhys Yates (Ford Fiesta Mk2 R5) at the top of the BRC leaderboard, while Sam Moffett (Ford Fiesta Rally2) is a further three points behind in third.
Having never entered the Grampian Rally before, the fast and flowing gravel stages in the Fetteresso and Drumtochty forest complexes will be completely new to Matt, meaning that he and co-driver Darren Garrod will be doing as much preparation as possible before making the journey north.
That will include the 36-year old Colwyn Bay-based driver giving his Melvyn Evans Motorsport-run Polo GTI R5 a brief test at the Sweet Lamb complex in mid-Wales before heading to Scotland for Round 3 of the BRC.
Two of Matt’s young rallying protégés, Ruairi Bell and Fraser Anderson, will also contest the Grampian Rally. Both ME Rallysport squad drivers won their class on the Nicky Grist Stages – Ruairi and co-driver Gareth Parry scoring a maiden Junior BRC victory, winning the category by over a minute in their Ford Fiesta Rally4, while Fraser and co-driver Jack Bowen won the BRC Academy Trophy for the first time by over two minutes in their Ford Fiesta R2T.
Matt, a highly sought-after rally driver coach, was north of the border only recently, advising a host of drivers contesting the Lockerbie-based RSAC Scottish Rally, a round of the BTRDA Rally Series.
In fact, Matt will travel to the Grampian Rally early, as he has a two-day mid-week coaching session with a group of six young rally drivers planned – before he is reunited with his Yuasa, TPS, Swift Group and Pirelli-backed Polo GTI R5.
“I’ve always liked competing in Scotland – the surface is different to anywhere else in the UK, the stages tend to be fast and flowing and they’re really to my liking. So much so, that I’ve always fancied doing the Scottish Rally Championship,” says Matt.
“I’ve never contested the Grampian Rally before, although I’ve been to the Durris, Fetteresso and Drumtochty stages to spectate. The surface is a lot softer and more sandy in places, and it’s really fast. It will be big challenge and, as it’s another relatively short rally, it will be flat-out from the word go.
“We have a short test planned at Sweet Lamb before we head to Scotland. The Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 is working well, but there are a couple of things I want to try. I found that on the Nicky Grist Stages I had a bit of oversteer on throttle, so I’d like to neutralise that. It meant that I was thinking too much about my driving, rather than just driving. It needs to be a bit more instinctive and natural – it’s more about seat time and making tiny adjustments to suit my driving style, rather than me having to change my driving style to suit the car. The Polo GTI R5 is awesome, don’t get me wrong – it’s just a case of making everything one hundred per cent perfect.
“And it needs to be perfect, as this year’s British Rally Championship will be a very close fight. Every event in this year’s calendar is vitally important, and we’ll be leaving no stone unturned in our preparations. I’m fully focused. I want to win the title for a third time, and I’m leaving nothing to chance in my efforts to make that happen.”
The Grampian Rally contains six stages (three repeated) totalling 43.46 stage miles. The first of a capacity 120 car entry will start the event at 08.41 from Banchory. The rally has two service halts (after SS2 and SS4) in Crathes, and the winner is expected at the finish at 16.52.
Owing to Covid-19 restrictions, it will be a non-spectator event – although fans will be able to follow Matt’s progress from home via his social media channels, in addition to interviews and information via the event’s and British Rally Championship’s online platforms.
Matt Edwards takes British Rally Championship lead after stunning victory on the Nicky Grist Stages.
Matt Edwards has taken the lead in the British Rally Championship after winning the Nicky Grist Stages in sensational style in his Yuasa Rally Team Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.
The double British rally champion considers this to be his best performance on gravel to date, given the intensity of competition and a new car for 2021. It is also the first time that a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 has won a round of the BRC, and it’s first victory on a UK forest rally.
Having been down in fourth place at the end of the opening Llyn Login stage, the 36-year old driver from Colwyn Bay set fastest time on SS2 (Monument 1) to tie for the lead with stablemate Osian Pryce (Polo GTI R5) – and by the end of SS3 (Halfway 1) he was tied for the lead with Tom Cave (Fiesta Rally2).
Co-driven by Darren Garrod, Matt took the lead outright after SS4 (Crychan 1), despite an engine misfire and a problem with the car’s brake bias – both of which were fixed by the Melvyn Evans Motorsport team during the midday service halt.
Matt took a two second advantage into the afternoon’s loop of four stages, and extended his lead to six seconds after a tactical push through SS6 (Monument 2), before another fastest time in SS7 (Halfway 2) saw him go into the final stage ahead by seven seconds.
Matt had used his Pirelli tyres well in the hot, dry and abrasive conditions, and managed his run through the closing Crychan 2 stage – which admittedly included a few big slides as the grip levels faded – to clinch victory by five seconds in the Yuasa, TPS and Swift Group-backed Polo GTI R5.
“It’s great to win the Nicky Grist Stages and be back leading the British Rally Championship,” said Matt.
“I have to give full credit to the Melvyn Evans Motorsport team. I had a lot of confidence with the Polo GTI on gravel from the first few runs I did with it on the pre-event test, and that has carried through to the event itself. We have a little more to do set-up wise to get a bit more out of it, but it’s a great position to be in early in the championship – leading it in a brand new car.
“Winning the Nicky Grist Stages was never going to be easy, and it wasn’t!
“It certainly helped running first on the road, because we obviously didn’t come across any dust. But there again, on the first loop especially, we were first on the road and had more of the loose gravel to deal with, so it wasn’t all an advantage running first on the road, not by a long way.
“We also had an engine misfire and the brake bias went for two stages, but we manage to fix both those issues and can look back and see that we were competitive from start to finish.
“I think the second stage after service, the second run through Monument, was key. We pushed hard and took a lot of life out of the tyres, especially on the downhill braking points, but we won that stage by four seconds. We had to manage the tyres for the final two stages after that. At times it was a bit of a handful, but we controlled the pace with five seconds to spare.
“When I look back at the event, I feel that this was my best performance on gravel to date, given the intensity of competition and the Polo GTI being a new car for 2021. And that gives me a lot of confidence heading into the next round of the BRC.”
And the next round of the British Rally Championship is the Grampian Forest Rally in Scotland on Saturday 14 August.
Nicky Grist Stages – Top 10 overall
1. Matt Edwards/Darren Garrod (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5)….42mins 30secs
2. Tom Cave/Dale Furness (Ford Fiesta Rally2)….42mins 35secs
3. Osian Pryce/Noel O’Sullivan (Volkswagen Polo GTI R5)….42mins 42secs
4. Rhys Yates/James Morgan (Ford Fiesta Mk2 R5)….43mins 26secs
5. Matthew Wilson/Stuart Loudon (Ford Fiesta Rally2)….43mins 30secs
6. Elliott Payne/Cameron Fair (Ford Fiesta R5)….44mins 11secs
7. Callum Black/Jack Morton (Ford Fiesta R5)….44mins 20secs
8. Josh Moffett/Andy Hayes (Hyundai i20 R5)….44mins 22secs
9. Steve Petch/Michael Wilkinson (Ford Fiesta R5 WRC)….44mins 34secs
10. Sam Moffett/Keith Moriarty (Ford Fiesta Rally2)….44mins 41secs
British Rally Championship for Drivers’ – points after Round 2
1. Matt Edwards….37pts
2. Rhys Yates….34pts
3. Sam Moffett….31pts
4. Osian Pryce….30pts
5. Tom Cave….18pts
6. Josh Moffett….14pts
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