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British Rally Championship contender Matt Cotton finished on the podium once again last weekend when he contested the second round of the world renowned series, The Bulldog International Rally of North Wales.  Cotton piloted his AVS Motorsport run Ford Fiesta ST to a worthy 18th overall and 2nd in class, ensuring he remains in the championship title hunt for the remaining rounds of the season.

International competitors from all corners of the globe assembled in the market town of Welshpool in Powys to tackle 90 competitive stage miles in the classic Welsh forests of Dyfi and Gartheiniog.  With 15 of those miles to be contested in the dark on Friday night, the event was already shaping up to be a classic battle for all the British Rally Championship crews.

With co-driver Glyn Thomas alongside, the South West pairing were looking forward to the challenge ahead which included night stages for the first time this year. But a bitter blow was dealt just a few hours before the event was due to start when the organisers of the rally had to cancel the 2 stages on Friday which were due to run in the dark.  This meant that the 10 stages planned for Saturday would become more critical for the team as they would need to attack from the very first stage.

After the ceremonial start in Welshpool town centre, the first loop of stages took crews into the fast and undulating Dyfi Forest complex where Matt would need to remain focused on the task in hand if he was to return to the first service of the day in the lead of his class. Matt said “I had a very scrappy first stage and we lost a lot of time with a few overshoots. It was hard adjusting to the different surface of the Welsh forests compared to Rallye Sunseeker as we haven’t got the budget to carry out testing between events, but hopefully we can learn quickly as its loosing us time on the faster sections”.

After a brief service halt, the crews returned to complete a second run of the morning’s stages which would prove critical for the Cornishman. As the stages were repeated, Matt started to build his confidence on the slippery gravel and set some encouraging stage times.  He said “Every mile I drive in the car I feel more confident and comfortable with how it performs. We should be able to claw back the seconds we lost this morning when we tackle the afternoon stages for the first time”.

However with the event running behind schedule due to a number of incidents, the organisers were forced to cancel the last 3 stages meaning the results were declared final after the second service of the day and the crews were re-routed to the ceremonial finish in Welshpool.

“I’m pleased that we have shown good pace today but we know what areas we need to improve on the remaining rounds. It was a shame we had 5 cancelled stages as we were building confidence with every stage.  We need to look forwards to the Pirelli Rally where we can really push for that illustrious win” said Glyn at the finish.

Matt lies in 14th place in the British Rally Championship, 2nd in class 8 and 4th in the Fiesta Sport Trophy. The next round of the series The Pirelli International Rally based in Carlisle, takes place on 27th/28th April.  Keep up to date with Matt’s progress both on and off the stages by visiting http://www.mattcottonrallying.co.uk, following us on Twitter, or finding us on Facebook.

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