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Welsh Rally driver James Williams gave the 2019 Fiesta its first Junior British Rally Championship (JBRC) win last weekend, securing victory by over eight minutes and dominating the RC4 class at the demanding Renties Ypres Rally (28 – 29 June).

Williams and co-driver Tom Woodburn showed an impressive pace from the very first stage, beating many local drivers and asphalt aces to hand M-Sport Ford a maiden JBRC win for the Mk8 Ford Fiesta R2T as the championship visited Belgium for the fourth round of the season.

Irishman Marty Gallagher with Dean O’ Sullivan alongside, joined the EDSL Sport stage for the first time and were another crew aiming to bag a top JBRC result. Driving the sister Fiesta R2T, Gallagher was immediately on the pace, giving EDSL Sport a JBRC one-two for much of the opening day.

Sadly, a heavy landing on the opening test on Saturday led to a damaged radiator, and the subsequent overheating issue meant that Gallagher would not be able to continue, ending his hopes of a Ypres podium.

After driving an older specification EDSL Sport Fiesta at the Cambrian Rally in February, Williams reverted to his own Vauxhall Adam for the West Cork Rally in Ireland. The 2018 JBRC runner up would then miss the following Pirelli International Rally but would re-join the Hampshire based squad for the trip across the English Channel.

With overall championship hopes all but diminished, a change of tactic was required for the remainder of the season and the rapid youngster elected to begin the hunt for the prize fund of 60,000 Euros towards a season in the Junior World Rally Championship in 2020, offered by M-Sport Poland and Pirelli.

Williams’s form in Ypres is well documented after taking the class and JBRC win in 2018 but this time he would have the challenge of a new car beneath him, having only managed a short test in the Fiesta prior to the event.

The unique roads in Belgium have caught out some of the world’s best drivers in the past and are renowned for taking years to master. Deep ditches await errant road positions and gravel strewn sections make each test unpredictable. With over 277 kilometres spread across 23 stages during the two days, the event would be more like a marathon than a sprint.

Add to that, searing heat had arrived in central Europe, with ambient temperatures in the mid-30 degrees and inside the cars much higher still. Only the fittest and well-prepared drivers would survive the weekend.

In traditional style, Ypres hosted the event with service taking place in the heart of the town along with the start and finish ceremonies. Crossing the ramp just after 4 pm, crews would head out for nine tests and over 90km of driving which would last well into darkness. Some of the best local drivers turned out to attempt to etch their names on the hotly contested class trophy, but there was no sign of Williams needing to bed into his new steed.

Setting six fastest stages times from the nine tests on the opening leg saw him edge out an 11-second class lead and 2m 18sec JBRC lead into day two, making a huge impression on the leader board in the process.

There was no sign of that dominance wavering on the second day and despite offering over 180km of flat out driving, spread over 12 hours and 14 stages, Williams continued to top the time sheets. A further nine fastest times in the searing heat saw the young Welshman win the coveted RC4 class by 45 seconds and a staggering 8m 43sec from the nearest JBRC rival, but it wasn’t without its drama’s over the closing stages.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet, I`m still just about getting my breath back after changing a puncture on the last stage,” said a relieved Williams before heading up to the Ypres Rally podium in front of a packed crowd.

“What a rally though” he continued.

“It’s been absolutely spot on. Every single stage has been great, I haven’t really made any mistakes at all. There have been a couple of things here and there but nothing to worry about, I couldn’t really have hoped for it to go any better than that.”

Williams had no problems getting used to the new M-Sport Fiesta.

“The car has been an absolute pleasure to drive to be honest, it’s a brilliant little car. I just hope I can drive it on more rounds later this year”.

Team Manager Alex Waterman, who was also competing on the event, was delighted with the result for Williams and believes he has shown the full potential of the EDSL Sport machine.

“I don’t think anyone can argue with a 45-second class win on such a specialist event like the Ypres Rally,” he said.

“I always knew James would be one of the drivers to be able to get the most out of the new Fiesta and really prove how capable it is, but to literally dominate a rally like this is a huge step forward for us. Marty (Gallagher) was also on the pace during the opening day which proves that we were right to be excited to have them both on the team, I’m just disappointed that we couldn’t get him to the end as well. It feels like a turning point for us and we will be working hard to continue to deliver results for the future. It’s an exciting time for us all”.

The next round of the British Rally Championship sees crews ahead across the Irish Sea to contest the Today Ulster Rally in August.

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

Image credits: Jakob Ebrey Photography

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