26 year old Welshman Matt Edwards took his second Bulldog Challenge win in spectacular style over the weekend, taking victory by over two minutes on the debut of their 'Swift Group' backed, 586 Sport MG ZR 1400.
The Millers Oil Rising Star was the class of the field, but he and co-driver Sam Collis' hard work was nearly unraveled after a series of under bonnet fires in the closing stages; however, quick thinking on the crews behalf prevented serious damage and enabled them to continue to victory.
The event started early on Saturday morning from Welshpool, and took in some classic Welsh Stages, starting at Aberhirnant near Bala. Despite this stage being the crews first time in the car, they were immediately fastest amongst their BRC Challenge rivals, but still admitted to making some set-up changes afterwards to get the car handling more to Edwards liking. Their times over the first three stages however would have placed them third in the two wheel-drive car on the international status event, just eight seconds behind the latest specification rally cars and crews for whom rallying is a near full-time occupation.
On the second test, the duo, really got to grips with their new car and completed the 9 mile Dyfnant stage over 18 seconds faster than their nearest challenger and headed to service with a very healthy yet unexpected 41.2 second advantage.
"I’m quite surprised to be so far in-front at this early stage, but it appears the car closest to us in the first stage has gone off the road in the second which has opened a gap somewhat." explained Edwards;
"It took me a while to get a rhythm going in the first stage as I wasn’t sure what the grip would be like and how the car would handle and brake, but the Dunlop tyres are really doing the trick, and I'm building confidence and experience with the car with every mile now we have the brake bias better set-up"
Into the afternoon leg of the three stages, Edwards and Collis were keen to put the matter beyond doubt, and promptly blitzed the 16 mile Gartheiog stage 46 seconds faster than any other BRC Challenge rival, despite admitting to taking no risks due to the very slippy conditions throughout. However, on crossing the finish line for the stage, it became evident the 'Swift Group' MG ZR was in trouble, with leaking power steering fluid having ignited on the red hot exhaust. Quick reactions from the crew and marshalls soon had the flames under control and the pair were able to continue with no major damage done.
The decision was made to continue into the final two stages in an effort to make the finish, as now the Power Steering fluid had run-out. Nevertheless, with two miles to go of the penultmate Dyfi stage, Collis could see the footwell of the cockpit glowing orange and the accompanied burning smell on-board confirmed their fears. Once again quick thinking saw the fire quickly under control, a feat that was repeated again on the final stage after total loss of Power Steering, setting fastest times on both to finish off the stages before diving out of the car to extinguish the fires.
Matt's 1st overall result here gives him the best possible start to the BRC challenge, which offers funding support towards his main goal for 2012, the British Rally Championship. The next event is on April 29/30th in Carlisle for the Pirelli Challenge Rally.