Matt Edwards sealed a dominant win on the 2018 John Mulholland Ulster Rally and secured his third Prestone MSA British Rally Championship win of the season in the process.
The M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5 driver won the two-day tarmac event by 29.1s ahead of CA1–Sport Skoda Fabia driver David Bogie and the Scotsman’s teammate Rhys Yates in third.
Two days of action in Northern Ireland saw over 200 stage miles and 11 stages, with Edwards again proving why he is the man to beat in this season’s BRC.
Coming into round three of the season, it looked as if it was going to be a close battle between him and former Irish Tarmac champion Keith Cronin, but the Irishman had to withdraw just days before the start of the event because of budgetary issues surrounding his Hyundai i20 R5 entry.
This let Edwards capitalise on his rival’s misfortune and secure a now 39 point lead over Bogie in the championship standings.
Edwards said on his win: “I don’t know what to say really. The event unfolded for us and we didn’t go into it or any individual stage with any goals. We drove to a level which was comfortable and pushed when we could but it was important to drive to the conditions.”
After Friday’s five stages however, it looked as if it was going to be a battle between Edwards and Yates for the win, with the pair separated by just 0.6s at the end of day one with both trading fastest stage times.
This looked set to continue the following day, but after Edwards had began to build up a lead, Yates’ response was short lived after he crashed out on stage nine, eventually managing to repair his Fabia and only being able to salvage third as a result of lost time.
Making the most of Yates’ misfortune was his CA1 teammate Bogie who drove a steady but consistent event with several stage wins and took second in BRC1 for the second event running as a result.
Behind the recovering Yates, in fourth was the second M-Sport driver Alex Laffey who survived several spins and mistakes to take a solid result in Ireland. Both local BRC1 drivers, Jonny Greer and Martin McCormack retired from their home event, with Greer crashing out on the opening day and McCormack choosing to withdraw on the Saturday following several close-calls with his Fabia R5 and not wanting to damage his car more substantially.
The Prestone MSA Motorsport News Junior BRC category saw Steve Rokland hold off a charging Josh McErlean to take the class win in his Peugeot 208 R2.
The Norwegian secured his second win in three events after a close battle with the local driver after a charging drive from McErlean on Saturday saw Rokland’s 15.3s Friday night advantage at the front drop to just 0.4s with two stages remaining.
But McErlean’s pursuit was over after he suffered a puncture on the penultimate stage before then retiring with a mechanical failure on stage 11, handing Rokland a 31.1s win over William Creighton who bagged a strong haul of points after retiring on the Ypres Rally last time out.
Rounding out the top three was Kevin Horgan who took his first podium of the season in his Skoda Fabia R2 after a fine comeback on day two in Northern Ireland after lying over two minutes behind the leader at the end of Friday.
Class championship leader coming into the Ulster event, James Williams, looked set for another strong result but crashed on stage seven damaging the Vauxhall Adam R2’s radiator. John Morrison in his Mitsubishi Evo IX took a solid overall finish as well as winning the National Rally Cup.
The next round of the 2018 Prestone MSA British Rally Championship is the Rally Isle of Man between August 13-15.