By Paul Evans
Matt Edwards will start the defence of his British Rally Championship title when he contests his local Llandudno-based Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally on Saturday (16 February).
The popular one-day event is the new opening round of the BRC and offers competitors some of the best gravel stages in the world, with the action taking place in the classic rallying forests such as Clocaenog, Elsi, Gwydyr and Alwen.
Partnered by new co-driver Patrick Walsh, Edwards is hoping for a strong start to the season in his M-Sport-entered Swift Caravans-backed Ford Fiesta R5.
“There is always the pressure of competing at home,” explained Edwards. “I felt it a little bit on Rally GB last year, but the Cambrian will be the big one for me. It’s the event I would dearly love to win. Of course I will be thinking of the title again, so I would be happy with a top three to get the year up and running. It’s great to see the Cambrian as part of the BRC. I remember when the Vauxhall Rally of Wales came here, and it’s great to see the event go back to that sort of scale again. It’s going to be a brilliant way to kick-start a great calendar for the BRC.”
The Cambrian Rally has attracted a star-studded entry, with crews coming from all over the UK, Ireland and much further afield – with the Heller brothers, Pedro and Alberto, coming from Chile to compete in a pair of Fiesta R5s.
However, one of Edwards’ main rivals will come from slightly nearer home, in the form of Tom Cave. The Aberdyfi driver was lightning quick in the same forests on last year’s Wales Rally GB, and co-driven by Hirwaun’s Dale Bowen, Cave’s likely to be a BRC title challenger this year in his Hyundai i20 R5 – having finished runner-up to Elfyn Evans in the 2016 series.
Also driving an i20 R5 will be Alan Carmichael, who’ll be co-driven by Ammanford’s Claire Williams.
Newcastle Emlyn’s James Williams finished runner-up in the 2018 Junior British Rally Championship, and is aiming to go one better as he returns to this highly competitive front-wheel drive series in a Fiesta R2.
The Cambrian Rally is also the opening round of the Pirelli MSA Welsh Forest Rally Championship, with Llanon’s Dylan Davies (co-driven by Mark Glennerster) returning to defend his title in a Subaru Impreza.
There is of course plenty of Welsh interest throughout the large entry list, with John Rowlands/Llion Williams and Scott Faulkner/Gareth Parry appearing in a pair of rapid Mitsubishi Evos, Hugh Hunter/Rob Fagg in the top-seeded Escort Mk2, Andy Williams/Andy Darlington will start in a Subaru Impreza, James Giddings/Sion Cunniff compete in their Fiesta R2 and Damion Thomas/Paul Bevan drive a Peugeot 205.
The Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally gets underway at 08.00 from Mostyn Street in Llandudno on Saturday. There are three stages in the morning, followed by a midday service halt in Llandudno, and a further five stages in the afternoon. The Welsh Championship round will then finish (at 16.57), while the BRC registered crews will tackle a further two night time stages before they finish in Llandudno town centre at 20.05.
Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally – top 20 starters
1. Pedro Heller/Marc Marti (Ford Fiesta R5)
2. Alberto Heller/Jose Luis Diaz (Ford Fiesta R5)
3. Matt Edwards/Patrick Walsh (Ford Fiesta R5)
4. Tom Cave/Dale Bowen (Hyundai i20 R5)
5. David Bogie/John Rowan (Skoda Fabia R5)
6. Martin McCormack/Barney Mitchell (Skoda Fabia R5)
7. Josh Moffett/Keith Moriarty (Ford Fiesta R5)
8. Desi Henry/Liam Moynihan (Skoda Fabia)
9. Jonathan Greer/Kirsty Riddick (Ford Fiesta R5)
10. Alex Laffey/Stuart Loudon (Ford Fiesta R5)
11. Stephen Petch/Michael Wilkinson (Ford Fiesta WRC)
12. Charles Payne/Carl Williamson (Ford Fiesta)
14. Brendan Cumiskey/Ronan O’Kane (Skoda Fabia R5)
15. Thomas Preston/Andrew Roughead (Skoda Fabia R5)
16. Sacha Kakad/James Aldridge (Ford Fiesta R5)
17. Alan Carmichael/Claire Williams (Hyundai i20 R5)
18. Niall Henry/Damien Duffin (Citroen DS3 R5)
19. Enda McCormack/Paul Sheridan (Ford Fiesta R5)
20. Ian Joel/Graeme Wood (Ford Escort Cosworth)
21. Dylan Davies/Mark Glennerster (Subaru Impreza)