Swift Rally Team driver Matt Edwards has won his first-ever British Rally Championship – realising a boyhood dream and starting the BRC season in stunning fashion.
Edwards and co-driver Darren Garrod won the Pirelli International Rally in the legendary Kielder Forest, finishing 20.5 seconds ahead of Rhys Yates in second place.
The win comes after an exceptionally strong 2017, when Edwards finished 3rd overall in the BRC despite it being his first ever season.
Racing alongside heroes
“This win means everything,” says Matt of the Pirelli result. “It’s the first time I have won a rally with international status.
“I grew up watching my heroes win international rallies – people who went on to become world champions in the WRC.”
Despite this talk of fairy-tales, Edwards is already seen as one of the brightest talents in British rallying, and hopes were high going into the Pirelli. “We said top 3 would be a perfect start;”
Matt told the BRC. “To actually come away with a win, with that sort of control, was great.”
Beating the champion
The Pirelli cut a fast and furious 80-mile course through the Kielder Forest – and Edwards and Garrod led from the start.
Across the 8 stages, they recorded the fastest times in 5. Edwards was up against rival and rallying legend Keith Cronin, who has won 4 previous BRC championships – including 2017, when Edwards finished close behind in 3rd. Cronin is aiming to win his 5th championship this season, which will equal series history maker Jimmy McRae. But his title defence got off to a less-than-perfect start, coming in 21.8 seconds behind Edwards and finishing in 3rd place.
“Keith is one the sport’s biggest icons,” says Matt. “He’s won the British championship 4 times, and in 4 different cars. “To beat Keith at the Pirelli is a significant achievement. If you can topple him, then you’re on your way.”
The car ‘was perfect’
Edwards was driving the new Swift M-Sport works-prepared Fiesta R5 for the first time in a BRC rally – and the new car more than lived up to its expectations.
“The car was perfect,” says Matt. “It allowed me to focus on the driving. If that’s all you’re worried about, you can do that that little bit better.”
Reflecting on where the Pirelli wins leaves the Swift team for the rest of the BRC season, Matt explains:
“We are 2 or 3 positons better off than we thought we would be at this stage. I’ve surprised a few people with this result – including myself.”
The next event in the British Rally Championship 2018 is the Renties Ypres Rally in Belgium. Can Matt continue his winning form?