Matt Edwards won the opening round of the 2019 British Rally Championship, the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally, to get his title defence off to a perfect start.
Welshman Edwards, who won the 2018 title on Wales Rally GB back in October, claimed the win with new co-driver Patrick Walsh in the M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5 by 26.5 seconds last weekend.
The reigning champion won eight of the ten stages across the event and finished ahead of David Bogie, who battled with the returning Tom Cave right up until the final stage on Saturday evening.
A delighted Edwards said on his victory: “This has to be the dream come true, the title was amazing last year, but this has to be the icing on the cake.”
“I have been watching this event since I can remember and to win it as a BRC round with the top ten out today, I didn’t think it was possible. I put some faith in the car, in the team and the package that we had – I just drove and after the first few stages I thought, this is on, we can do this.”
He added: “We have been pushed hard for it all day, the event may have only been 58 miles but it felt like 158 miles. It’s amazing to do it in front of a home crowd was dream come true, especially on the stages and the high street I grew up on is something else.”
Cave meanwhile, who last competed in the BRC in 2017, suffered a double puncture in the second run through the Elsi test and with no spare tyres left in the boot of his Hyundai i20, the Welshman was unable to drive back to the rally base in Llandudno and had to retire as a result.
This gave Martin McCormack his first podium finish in the BRC for over a year, with the Irishman finishing ahead of fellow Skoda driver Desi Henry who took fourth.
Fifth went to another British championship returnee in the form of Josh Moffett, with Chilean driver Alberto Heller rounding out the top six overall, although wasn’t eligible for scoring championship points in Wales.
A large entry list saw a total of 12 R5 finishers, with former Junior BRC competitor Meirion Evans, ending the event seventh in another Hyundai, while Brendan Cumiskey, Thomas Preston and Alex Laffey also all scored BRC championship points last weekend.
The 2019 Junior BRC got underway with James Wilson holding off William Creighton by just 1.9 seconds to claim the class win and the £2,500 prize provided by Peugeot UK and Total.
A puncture on stage five had dropped Creighton down to fifth, but a fine comeback drive during the night tests on Saturday evening saw him move back up to second by the end of the event. Another BRCJ returnee, Marty Gallagher, completed the podium.
Josh McErlean, who switched to a 208 R2 over the winter, made it a Peugeot top four lockout in the class after leapfrogging Jordan Hone on the final stage.
Finlay Retson and Ruairi Marcus Bell, who had defending BRC champion co-driver Darren Garrod alongside him, finished sixth and seventh respectively in the two-brand new Ford Fiesta MK8 R2’s, while Bart Lang completed the class. John Morrison won the National Rally Cup in his Mitsubishi Evo 9.
Round two of the 2019 British Rally Championship is the West Cork Rally, which takes place between March 16-17.