Matt Edwards claimed a dramatic victory on the 2018 Renties Ypres Rally on the final stage of the event in the Prestone MSA British Rally Championship.
Coming into the final Boeschepe 2 stage, it looked as if it was going to be defending BRC champion and winner in Belgium 12 months ago Keith Cronin, who was going to take the win, but the Irishman suffered a puncture on his Hyundai i20 R5 and dropped down to third in BRC1 as a result.
As well as taking the BRC win, Edwards also secured the Tony Pond Trophy for being the highest placed British runner on the event that was won by WRC championship leader Thierry Neuville aboard a similar i20 to Cronin’s.
A mammoth event saw 23 stages take place across Friday and Saturday with many twists and turns – first it was eventual winner Edwards to suffer after an ECU issue which forced the M-Sport team to change the wiring loom on the car and he left service late, earning him a 1m10s time penalty.
After dropping from the lead to third in class, the Welshman regrouped going into day two and despite suffering steering problems late on he managed to leapfrog David Bogie into second and sat 46.6s behind Cronin before the Irishman’s puncture that cost him over a minute in dropped time giving Edwards his second win in two BRC events in 2018.
Edwards said on his win: “It’s just not going to sink in at all. Maybe it will in a few days. Just an unreal rollercoaster of an event. Thank you to everybody in the team for keeping us going, holding their heads high and believing we could get a strong result. I thought it was all over when we lost the steering.”
“This has been a very different win for us as from stage one it’s not gone right but I never doubted myself, the team or the car. You just have to keep going and take any glimmer of hope you can as when the car was on song, the event was unbelievable.”
“This has really helped my championship ambitions. I really want to win the BRC this year and will not hide away from that fact. I want to complete that box set of DVDs with my car on the 2018 front cover and we will keep chipping away to get there.”
Bogie managed to score vital championship points after retiring early on the first round of the season, the Pirelli International and the Scotchman drove a steady but consistent event in Belgium wining several stages aboard the CA1-Sport Skoda Fabia R5 while Alex Laffey completed the BRC1 runners in fourth in the U-Student backed M-Sport Fiesta.
More late drama happened when Martin McCormack, running in second in class at the time retired on stage 20 after a steering problem on his Fabia R5, while Rhys Yates was forced to withdraw from the event before the start of day two after co-driver Elliott Edmundson felt unwell.
The Prestone Motorsport News Junior BRC category saw James Williams in his Vauxhall Adam R2 make most of his joker nomination on the way to taking an in the end comfortable win ahead of Josh McErlean and James Wilson.
After leading the event where he finished third last season, Williams spun on stage 11 costing him precious seconds and giving William Creighton the lead aboard his Peugeot 208 R2. But Williams responded and continued to push to make up for his mistake.
Going into stage 15, the pair at the front were separated by just one second, but Creighton’s pursuit for the win in Belgium ended after he went off into a ditch and couldn’t continue, giving Williams a comfortable lead at the front of the field and he went on to win. Just three seconds separated McErlean and Wilson at the end of the event and despite a late push by Wilson, McErlean in the Fiesta R2-T held on for second in BRCJ.
The BRC Cadet class saw Bart Lang win ahead of Frank Field and Johnnie Mulholland while John Morrison finished the event in 33rd overall and the winner of the National Rally Cup.
Round three of the 2018 Prestone MSA British Rally Championship is the John Mulholland Motors Ulster Rally between August 17-18.