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Jerseyman Ed Fossey returned to rallying action last weekend on the Nicky Grist Stages (8 July) – the fifth round of the BTRDA Rally Championship. Ed came back to the event where he made his gravel debut 12 months ago to chalk up 57th overall but more importantly fifth in class to strengthen his position at the top of the Thomas Panels BTRDA 1400 Championship with two rounds remaining.

On Ed’s previous event – the Plains Rally the Bournemouth University student recorded a fine podium to elevate him to the top of the series table. The Yokohama-backed driver now looked forward to fighting for valuable championship points on the hot and dusty gravel stages based around Builth Wells, but with the extra challenge of using a new car for the Welsh event. With Fossey’s usual Toyota Yaris undergoing mid-season development work, Ed was to use a Vauxhall Corsa on stages that were previously used on Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship – Wales Rally GB.

Ed acquired the car just a few weeks before the event and he and his team faced a race against time to prepare the Vauxhall from its original Tarmac specification, to a rally car built like a tank to take on the punishing loose surface stages. A herculean task, which was completed before the start of the 45-mile event

Eight stages faced the 18-year-old and Blackpool-based co-driver Chris Sharpe-Simkiss with the pair following in the wheel tracks of the top runners in the British Rally Championship at the front of the field.

The opening stage saw Ed get used to his new mount very quickly with the Jerseyman settling himself into 56th out of the 95 runners and vitally third in class, a position Fossey held for the opening three stages as he carved his way through the dust and rocky roads. However, on stage four the Next Big Step driver thought he had a puncture and elected to stop and assess before continuing. A loose sump guard was the culprit and a quick fix enabled him to get back into the thick of the action.

After the lunchtime service halt the same four stages were repeated, this time with less hanging dust in the air. Rather than risking it all, chasing rivals that were now too far in front – Ed kept his sensible calm head and let others falter around him. The young-gun kept his cool to tick off the stages and bring the car home for a strong fifth in class, which may well pay dividends as the championship heads to its curtain call on the Trackrod Forest Stages in September.

“It was a troublesome weekend for us,” explained Fossey. “We knew it was going to be a tough event and it took time to get used to the car. The Vauxhall Corsa was not built for the forest stages in mind, so there were things that didn’t work as well like the brakes, sump guard and steering but that can all be resolved as we learnt a lot with this car on its first gravel event.

“To get it ready in two weeks was a brilliant achievement and problems were expected but to get to the finish in one piece with more points on the board and the championship lead is very important. When the days are bad and you still get to the finish, I think it could be worse and I will be back stronger for the final two events where I hope to be back on the podium.”

The next round of the BTRDA Rally Championship will see Ed Fossey and his rivals travel to the Woodpecker Stages in Shropshire for the penultimate round of the series. Fossey will hope to make it a hat-trick of podiums and stretch his championship lead on round four next time out.

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