Kick Energy Fiesta SportTrophy, and British Rally Challenge competitors Matt Edwards and Andy Murphy took overall victory in two categories of the Bulldog International Rally North Wales at the weekend, taking a 25 second win amongst their Fiesta ST rivals, and a near three minute victory in the first round of the British Rally Challenge.
This marks the pair's first ever overall event win in their Cadbury's, High Hill Ford, Giles Phillips Motorsport and Silkolene 710 supported Fiesta ST
Having successfully acquainted himself with his stead for 2009 on the Malcolm Wilson rally just three weeks previously, Edwards was confident after a second overall placing in the Fiesta championship opener that more was to come; and setting fastest times on all four of the long and demanding tests in classic Mid-Wales forests was proof enough of that prediction.
The 24-year-old Edwards was keen to build on the experience gained in the car and take the challenge to British Rally Elite member Kris Hall who led the fiercely competitive series after round one. Setting a time just one second quicker than his closest rival was an encouraging and confidence boosting start to the event for the pairing;
"We managed to find a good pace from the start of the stage and managed to maintain that throughout despite the tricky conditions", explained Edwards. "It's a good feeling to be up there early on, as we don't have the 'seat time' of many of our rivals, added to that we are using part worn tyres at the moment! ".
Aberhirnant followed the opening eight-mile Dyfnant opener, and to the delight of the Welsh crew they were able to extend their lead to 5 seconds amongst their Fiesta rivals, whilst increasing their lead to nearly 40 seconds in the Rally Challenge with the unfortunate retirement of their main rival and title favorite Julian Wilkes. Their pace would also have seen them lying an incredible eleventh overall amongst the full British Rally Championship runners, an impressive feat for an entirely privately run car.
However, the duo were set to face their toughest rallying challenge after a short service interval to check over the car, as they were to head to two stages over 15 miles in very demanding territory with only experience of stages up to ten miles to help them through. Nevertheless, with some gritty and determined driving showing yet more of their potential speed, Edwards and Murphy stopped the clocks 14 seconds faster than any of their Fiesta rivals, and a staggering 25 faster than their Challenge competition. Now all that stood between them and the ultimate reward for their efforts was a yet longer stage in Dyfi Forest.
Despite struggling to find a good rhythm in the early part of the stage, another impressive performance and fourth consecutive fastest stage time on both sets of time sheets sealed their momentous victory.
"We are obviously delighted with this result, its a dream come to win both our first Fiesta event and take our first Overall event win here on these stages; its definitely a weekend I will remember and arguably the best weekend I' ve had in the sport for the four years I have been competing. It's the ideal reward for all the hard work that goes in behind the scenes, and I'd like to congratulate Andy on a great job reigning me in today, as I have been more fired up for today's stages than I can ever remember being! Id also like to thank Cadbury's, Silkolene, GPM and High Hill Ford for their support, without which I would I certainly wouldn't be getting the chance to compare to other drivers at as higher level.”
The pair now lead both the Kick Energy Fiesta Sport Trophy and British Rally Challenge Series as the crews head North to the equally challenging Kielder Forest stages on the Pirelli International Rally on 18th April, where they will also encounter their first experience of night stages.