By Paul Evans
Matt Edwards has taken a major step towards retaining his British Rally Championship title after scoring maximum points on the Ulster Rally – while arch-rival Tom Cave’s series-winning hopes took a severe dent as he crashed out of the event.
Edwards and Cave started the penultimate round of the BRC tied for the lead of the series, and their close battle continued over the fast and bumpy asphalt roads of Northern Ireland.
Co-driven by Patrick Walsh, the reigning champion took an early advantage in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5, and as Cave tried to fight back, a few mistakes – including an overshoot into a field – cost him valuable time.
The scrap was settled on the eighth stage when Cave crashed into a wall, ripping a wheel off his Hyundai i20 R5. Both he and co-driver Dale Bowen were okay, but their rally was over.
Whilst Edwards has now established a healthy 25 point lead in the series, both he and Cave will play their double-points scoring Joker on the final round of the series, the Galloway Hills Rally (14 September), so the destiny of the title is far from decided.
Craig Breen/Paul Nagle won the Ulster Rally in their Hyundai i20 R5, and with it clinched the Irish Tarmac Championship crown – yet Edwards was delighted to have finished close behind the WRC crew and netted the all-important top BRC points.
“What another great weekend, back-to-back wins and what was really encouraging was the pace to Craig [Breen],” said Edwards. “I know he has jumped into a new car this weekend but we were pleased with our overall pace but most importantly we take a lead to the Galloway Hills and that’s our focus now. It’s taken a bit of pressure off as this event was so tricky and had the potential for some big mistakes and the conditions changed so much with every pass so it was hard to keep that performance up over the course of the day. It’s unfortunate that it came to a mistake and gutted for Tom, but that’s the name of game. We look forward to another fight in Scotland next month.”
Meirion Evans had a good run to fourth overall in his Škoda Fabia R5. A spin on a damp and slippery stage two cost him time, but he and co-driver Jonathan Jackson are quickly getting used to the new Melvyn Evans Motorsport-run car and showed some incredible speed during the event.
A close battle for Group N honours was decided on the final stage, with Andy Davies scoring another fantastic win in his Subaru Impreza. Co-driven by Michael Gilbey, Davies remains in contention for the Irish Group N title with only the final round in Cork to go.
James Williams led the Junior BRC section for much of the Ulster Rally, extending his advantage with four consecutive fastest stage times in his Ford Fiesta R2. With last minute replacement co-driver Dai Roberts on the notes, the Newcastle Emlyn driver was denied a win when turbo boost problems on stage seven left him with intermittent power for the final couple of stages. He eventually finished second to local crew and the newly-crowned Junior BRC title winners, Josh McErlean/Keaton Williams.