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Hampshire based rally team EDSL Sport endured a difficult weekend at the opening round of the 2019 Junior British Rally Championship, suffering a cruel blow to their debut appearance in the series at the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally (16th February).

Recently announced as M-Sport Fiesta R2 UK resellers, they would field a three-car team in the Llandudno based event with each crew contesting the ultra-competitive JBRC which kicked off in Llandudno and the forests of North Wales.

In a last-minute deal with newly formed Rally Team UK, 2018 Junior runner up, Welshman James Williams and reigning Junior champion co-driver Tom Woodburn would field a Ford Fiesta RT2 on the event, heading up the squad as lead Junior away.

BRC Cadet Cup Champions Jordan Reynolds and Peredur Davies had announced their intentions to mount an assault on the JBRC with EDSL Sport back in January but would surprise the opposition by wheeling out a brand new 2019 Fiesta R2 for the season opener. Joining the duo in a new M-Sport Fiesta was recently-announced Ruairi Bell, along with current British Champion co-driver Darren Garrod.

All three of the EDSL Sport machines would not only be challenging for JBRC honours but would also be vying for a prize fund of 60,000 Euros towards a season in the Junior World Rally Championship in 2020 which has been provided by M-Sport Poland and Pirelli.

Ten stages totalling 52 miles would lie ahead on Saturday with rocky and slippery conditions in most of the tests to contend with, as well as three stages under the cover of darkness to provide a sting in the tail for all crews in the BRC.

Bell would take first blood on the opening stage, putting his experience in Latvia and Estonia to good use, taking sixth fastest JBRC time and first Fiesta through the Cloceanog test. Reynolds would use the opener to bed into the new machine whilst Williams acclimatised to the car he used in 2017 once again.

Sadly disaster would strike Williams in both the second and third stages, with a split turbo pipe losing the talented Welshman time, a rear hub failure on the third test would see him retire on the spot. A disappointing end to a promising opening round of the season for Williams and the team.

Both Bell and Reynolds would be evenly matched across the remaining stages of the day and as both drivers settled into their new surroundings, their stage times tumbled. Both pilots would fire in some top-three times during the day, showing the potential of the Ford 1.0 litre EcoBoost powerplant in tough conditions.

As darkness fell, Bell would be out front in sixth with Reynolds just 28 seconds behind as the youngsters adapted to the difficult conditions in the stages. Bell showed no sign of the darkness troubling him with third quickest on the penultimate stage to close the gap to fourth. But cruelly, transmission issues on the final test meant he would need to creep through the stage, dropping to seventh in the process but securing valuable points towards his JBRC campaign.

Reynolds reported a loss of power in the final miles of the stage but secured a time good enough to ensure he was first Fiesta home. But disaster would strike the young charger after the stop line. On the transit section back to the Llandudno finish ramp, the Fiesta lost all power and would go no further and despite finishing all the stages, he could not report to the final control and was out of the rally. A bitter blow to a successful day behind the wheel.

Despite a difficult weekend for the team, Team Manager Alex Waterman believes there is huge potential in the squad.

“You only have to look at the time sheets to see just how quick these guys are in the new Fiesta’s and we certainly have a bright future ahead of us,” he says.

“For both Jordan and Ruairi to jump into the brand new cars and fight for top three times is very impressive, especially up against some very experienced competitors. The conditions were difficult and they both drove with a mature approach which will be important this season. Of course, I’m very disappointed we couldn’t get James and Jordan the result they deserved as both drivers showed immense potential at the pre-event test but we will certainly be back stronger from it.”

The next round of the Junior BRC heads to Ireland for the West Cork Rally in March.

More information on EDSL Sport can be found by visiting http://www.edslsport.co.uk

Image credits: Jakob Ebrey Photography

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