The Swift Rally Team roars back into action on Saturday with driver Matt Edwards targeting the top prize in the 2018 British Rally Championship (BRC).
The BRC is contested over several rallies, taking in Ypres in Belgium and the Isle of Man.
Edwards competed in his first-ever BRC last year, and surpassed all expectations, being named a ‘dark horse’ for the championship title before eventually finishing in the top 3.
The 2018 season finally gets under way this weekend with the Pirelli International Rally (28th April) after the first planned rally was cancelled.
The Borders Counties Rally (March 11th) was called off at the last-minute as snow and freezing temperatures brought the country to a standstill.
Matt makes M-Sport debut
Swift has a rich rallying heritage that spans decades, and has supported Matt as he has developed into one of British rallying’s most promising competitors. This year, Matt’s Ford Fiesta R5 will carry the branding of Swift Go – the new motorhome hire business from Swift Group.
Matt goes into the Pirelli rally on the back of a sensational 2017, where he finished 3rd overall in his first season in the BRC. Second-place finishes at Ypres, Nicky Grist Stages and Rally Isle of Man are among the highlights.
He will be driving for the first time the new Swift M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5. To make the step up to a works-prepared M-Sport car marks a major milestone in Matt’s rallying career.
M-Sport managing director Malcom Wilson is expecting great things from the Swift Rally Team in 2018.
“Matt impressed a lot of people last year,” he said.
“It’s great to see him behind the wheel of the Ford Fiesta R5 again in 2018. The Fiesta has claimed the British Rally Championship crown for the past two years running – with Elfyn Evans in 2016 and again with Keith Cronin in 2017 – and I see no reason why that shouldn’t be our goal in 2018.”
The Pirelli takes in some of the north’s most rugged landscapes, covering an 80-mile course that passes from Cumbria to Northumberland’s dramatic Kielder Forest.
Matt knows the stages of this rally well, and is relishing the challenge of taking them on once again.
“I’ve driven these stages in different cars over the years, and I really enjoy them. When behind the wheel, the 15-mile stretch of stage 2 has an amazing rhythm to it. There’s only 1 chicane, so you can really get into your groove.”
“Kielder is one of those places that has become somewhat legendary in rallying,” says M-Sport BRC Manager, Scott Erskine.
“It’s fast, and the drivers barely lift as they go flat-out through the gravel forests. We’ve seen the Fiesta go well there in the past, and Matt certainly has everything he needs to challenge for the podium and get his season off to a great start.”
Going for gold in 2018
Matt enjoyed a career-best finish last year when he achieved third overall in the BRC. The Welshman, who built his first rally car himself some 15 years ago, is seen by many as one of the brightest talents on the British rallying scene
He is committed to doing even better this year.
Matt says: “I’m hoping to progress from third overall in the British Championship last year, which was my biggest achievement so far, to becoming British Rally Champion. But there’s a fair bit of driving to do before that.”
By Matt’s side is co-driver Darren Garrod. “I’m the guy who tells him how fast to go and in which direction,” he explains. Darren has raced with a factory team for the past five years, and his rallying has taken him all over the world.
“Really, really looking forward to 2018,” he says.
“We hope to get our first British Championship rally win, and with a bit of luck we should take the crown as well!”
Swift’s rallying heritage
Swift has been a fixture on the rallying scene for over 40 years, powered by the passion and enthusiasm of Swift chairman Peter Smith for motorsports. As well as providing the M-Sport Fiesta R5, Swift also provides a motorhome for the team to stay in during the rally events.
James Turner, Swift Group Managing Director, says: “Matt exceeded all expectations in his first season in the BRC – there’s no reason why he cannot do the same thing again.
“Swift has a long history with motorsport and we are proud of our partnership with Matt, who has proven himself to be one of the brightest talents in British rallying. Behind the wheel of the Swift M-Sport Fiesta R5 we believe he can achieve great things in 2018.”
Follow the progress of Matt and Darren on Facebook @SwiftRallyTeam