by Geoff Mayes
Matt Edwards and experienced co-driver John Roberts put in a flawless and mature performance on the Ludlow based Woodpecker Stages Rally to keep alive their BTRDA Production class Championship hopes, despite a day-long tussle amidst stiff competition.
Edwards managed a string of top ten stage times in a Geoff Jones Motorsport-run and Kumho Tyres shod Subaru Impreza despite no opportunity to test ahead of the event.
Running on a fraction of the budget of his nearest rivals, Edwards only secured the necessary funds to contest the rally in the week prior to the event and whilst the predicament necessitated a restless night in a tent, the 2007 class B8 champion was on the pace from the word go.
Proving that the lack of testing was no major hindrance Edwards returned to first service with a string of top five class stage times proving a testament to the youngsters natural ability to quickly adapt to the different machine, especially on this rally where local knowledge always plays a significant part of the proceedings.
Lying tenth overall at first service, all was required was a routine maintenance check and a new pair of Kumho tyres on the Geoff Jones N11 car in preparation for the rapid tests in the Radnor forest complex;
“All has gone well according to plan this morning, as my unfamiliarity with the car hasn't slowed us down at all like i thought it might do,” Edwards said. “With all the hard work that's gone into getting here the priority is to enjoy it, and judging by the pace this morning its going to be a huge battle all day, which is pretty much what we expected. Nevertheless its a great feeling to be up at the sharp end competing with and sometimes beating the top boys in WRC's on the stages, so it makes it all well worthwhile!”
With only 20 seconds separating fourth to 14th overall, the pace was only ever going to get faster, so a 100 per cent committed approach was the only option if any hope of the championship was to be retained; and nothing less than 100 per cent was delivered as expected. Edwards was bang on the pace to set a time only four seconds down on local ace Roger Chilman on the 8.5 miles of stage four.
By second service, back at Ludlow Racecourse, young Edwards had chipped away at the times of his rivals but the pace was still red hot and it would need to be a case of full attack for the last three stages, all repeats from the mornings loop but now in the reverse direction. Again with nothing but full attack being an option, the determined young driver, renowned for his dedication and never say die attitude, committed everything to the last three stages with the car running reliably and driver now on top of his stead. Three more scintillating times were set, incredibly only missing out on fastest time overall on the last stage by three seconds.
“Today has been fantastic!” he said. “Its been a brilliant battle in Group N, taking us to within a minute of the overall lead which is no mean feat given the competition, so that's testament to the level of commitment between us all. It still feels like I'm Colwyn Bay FC taking on Manchester United at Old Trafford given my limited experience and the budget, but a result like this just justifies to me its worth putting the effort in and makes you wonder what could happen if the budget was available and I could spend more time getting fluent with the car.
“We still have a mathematical chance of winning our class but our chances of getting to the Plains are slim to none as we pushed the boundaries to make it here. I'd like to thank Geoff Jones for his tremendous support and faith in me, and Kumho Tyres for their valuable input into this year in giving me access to an excellent product that's worked very well in all conditions. I, of course, can't take all the credit, as Jon has also been extremely influential in these latest results.”