British Rally Champion Matt Edwards will return to the BRC in 2021, but behind the wheel of a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 instead of a Ford Fiesta Rally2. Ever since stepping up to R5 machinery at the back end of 2016, Edwards has exclusively driven M-Sport-prepared Fiestas in the British Rally Championship – claiming both the 2018 and ’19 titles.
Welshman Edwards had been leading the 2020 series too after winning the Cambrian Rally but the championship was scrapped in light of the developing coronavirus pandemic.
In driving a Polo – run by Melvyn Evans Motorsport with support from personal sponsor Yuasa, Swift Group, Pirelli and Volkswagen Group genuine parts provider TPS – Edwards will become the first driver to pilot a Volkswagen in the BRC since Tapio Laukkanen drove a Golf V Kit Car in 2000.
Osian Pryce was set to give the Polo R5 its BRC debut on last year’s West Cork Rally before it was postponed and then cancelled just two days before it was set to begin.
Edwards, who is chasing an historic consecutive title triple, said: “I’m very excited to be returning to the British Rally Championship, not only to try for a third title but also to see what this season has in store.
“My campaign will look very different from the last four years that’s for sure and we have been working very hard over the winter to make sure we have the best package possible in the Volkswagen Polo. I truly believe we have the platform to go out there and get title number three.
“There will be a lot of new challenges to conquer this year and that always means that it could throw up a few surprises,” he added.
“We are hearing that the BRC will have a strong entry again but with the new events in the calendar, it should level the playing field a little. I’m excited to get some quality milage in the Polo though. I know it’s a very capable car and the setup we have should mean we can challenge at the front from the first round. That’s certainly the plan.”
The planned opening rounds of the BRC – Circuit of Ireland, Tendring & Clacton and Jim Clark Rallies – have been lost to coronavirus but Rally Insight understands championship organisers are close to revealing an updated schedule.
From the original calendar released in December, the Nicky Grist Stages, Grampian Forest Rally, Trackrod Rally Yorkshire and Cambrian Rally all remain while the Mull Rally is set to join the calendar for the first time as the series’ official reserve event.
Edwards has had a little more seat time than others, but is still aware he will need to undergo a period of transition when BRC action resumes later this year.
“It’s been almost 12 months since I’ve been able to compete as a driver although I have managed to carry out some tuition and co-driving duties when restrictions have allowed,” he said.
“That will probably help in a way as it will feel like a clean sheet, a new start if you like when we get underway again. As I say, I’m very excited about this season and very indebted to my supporters for their backing once again. Let’s hope I can do them and myself proud.”
Jon Pritchard, General Sales and Marketing Manager for GS Yuasa Battery Sales UK Ltd added: “We are delighted to be backing Matt again and excited to see what he will achieve as he hunts his third BRC title in the fabulous VW Polo R5.
“We have had a partnership with him for a number of years now and his performance and attitude reflect our own core values of reliability, quality and teamwork. After the cancellation of the 2020 championship, we can’t wait to see him and the team back in action.”
Photos courtesy of British Rally Championship