M-Sport’s Matthew Wilson has won his first British Rally Championship round in 16 years as reigning champion Matt Edwards plummeted out of contention with a misfiring engine.
Wilson and Elliott Edmondson led the Grampian Forest Rally from start to finish, bringing their Ford Fiesta Rally2 home 20 seconds clear of Osian Pryce and Noel O’Sullivan’s Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.
Rhys Yates and James Morgan edged four-time British champion Keith Cronin and co-driver Mikie Galvin for third in a final stage shoot-out; the pair starting SS6 level on time but Yates nipping ahead by just a single second at the finish.
“We’re really, really pleased, enjoyed it all to be honest,” said the winner, Wilson.
“It’s a shame we didn’t have the fight with Matt in these last two so we tried to keep a good rhythm and not make any mistakes, we’re really chuffed.”
Edwards and co-driver Darren Garrod had lurked just eight seconds behind the eventual winners after four of the six stages, with a big battle to the finish anticipated.
But Edwards’ Polo R5 was misfiring at the regroup immediately afterwards; a remanifestation of the problem that looked to jeopardise his Nicky Grist Stages victory last month.
Edwards did make it out of service, but an SS5 time two minutes slower than Wilson spelt disaster. He parked up his Polo on the road section on-route to the final test, sacrificing valuable championship points to his rivals as he surrendered at least a second-place finish.
Yates – hampered by a pop-off valve issues on the first pair of stages – is the driver who made the biggest gains as his third place moves him to the head of the standings, albeit by just a single point ahead of Pryce.
Pryce had a conflicting rally; happy to grab the important 18 points for second but frustrated to have lacked the pace he seemed to have unlocked on round two. A fastest time on the final stage will be something useful to chew on though.
It was an opposing story for 2021 rallying returnee Cronin however. Having not competed since 2018, the Hankook-backed driver did well to find himself in a battle for the podium. Even though he lost out to Yates, fourth was a confidence-boosting result ahead of next month’s Trackrod Forest Stages.
Josh Moffett rounded out the top five finishers in his Hyundai i20 R5, albeit close to a minute further adrift of Cronin’s Fiesta. ERC regular Cathan McCourt picked up a new Fiesta Rally2 from M-Sport on Thursday and used it to finish sixth, six seconds ahead of Josh’s brother Sam.
James Wilson survived a late scare when the left rear track control arm on his Hyundai failed on the final stage, but he was able to bring the i20 R5 to the finish in eighth. Garry Jennings and BRC returnee Tom Williams rounded out the top 10.
Eamonn Kelly belied his inexperience to triumph in Junior BRC, profiting when early leader Ruairi Bell pulled up with an electrical problem. Scotsman Garry Pearson took the National victory in a Skoda Fabia R5.
The next BRC round is Trackrod Rally Yorkshire on September 24/25.
Photos courtesy of British Rally Championship