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Double British Rally Champion Matt Edwards will return to the Caribbean next month to compete in Sol Rally Barbados 2020 and continue his mentoring role as co-driver to Turks & Caicos Rally Team member Paul Horton in his Ford Fiesta R5. Confirmation today (September 28) of Trinidad & Tobago’s David Coelho’s entry in his Fiesta brings the number of entries in the island’s burgeoning FIA R5 class to a record seven.

Following its postponement as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Barbados Rally Club’s (BRC) premier event will now run over the weekend of October 31/November 1, with the Prizegiving on the Sunday evening. The previous Saturday, Bushy Park will host Scrutineering, while King of the Hill on the Sunday will return to Stewarts Hill, running on a similar course to last year and once again the basis for seeding the main event.

Having previously overseen test sessions in his native Wales with Horton before the R5 was shipped to Barbados, Edwards was the co-driver last month in HammerTime20, the double-header sprint jointly organised by the BRC and Motoring Club of Barbados Inc (MCBI), which was the first outing for his new mount in the region: “Matt is top class as a mentor and navigator, he has so much experience of the R5 he can feel and sense what the car is doing and my input, even from the other seat. It would have taken months, if not a year or so, to learn the car just driving in Barbados events six or seven times a year, so the coaching time in Wales and Barbados is very valuable to me.”

Edwards grew up in a well-known rallying family in North Wales, where he still lives; he first competed in 2004 on the local Cambrian Rally – his dad was Clerk of the Course – having spent his student grant on converting a Vauxhall Astra into a rally car. He won his class in the BTRDA Championship in 2007, then was spotted by Swift Group Chairman Peter Smith, who agreed to become a part-sponsor, a relationship which flourished, culminating in his British titles in 2018 & ‘19 in a fruitful partnership with fellow-Welshman Darren Garrod.

While the coronavirus pandemic ended his 2020 British Championship campaign, he is a busy driver coach, also an occasional co-driver for the past decade or so, a talent that was thrust into the limelight recently when he stepped in for an injured Garrod in Ruairi Bell’s Fiesta Rally4 to finish fourth in Junior WRC in Rally Estonia. In a two-page feature in last week’s Motorsport News in the UK, Edwards said: “It’s quite nice to be able to co-drive. The ultimate reward for me is seeing somebody go faster than they would do normally.”

From Horton’s perspective, Edwards deserves more support: “I am blessed to have this guy in my car and I am surprised that he has not been picked up for a WRC2 campaign, because he certainly has the ability. If only I was in a financial position to sponsor him I would without hesitation.”

Edwards return means Horton’s regular co-driver Kris Yearwood is being rested, as Horton explains: “I had a conversation with Kris to discuss the idea of him sitting out this year’s Rally Barbados to help further my development for our future in the car together and we decided as a team it would be beneficial. I’d like to thank Kris for that, also Java Island for continued sponsorship and support.”

Regional entries Horton & Coelho boost R5 class to seven

After last week’s announcement that Ken Block will be contesting Sol Rally Barbados 2020 in a brand-new Ford Fiesta Rally2, today’s confirmation of the two regional entries for Paul Horton and David Coelho brings the total number entered in the FIA R5 class to seven. Their three Fiestas join the two previously confirmed for Bajan drivers Sol Esuf and Andrew Mallalieu, plus the two Skoda Fabia R5s of Roger Hill and Stuart Maloney. Esuf’s Fiesta and Maloney’s Fabia are the cars in which their previous owners Andy Scott and Tom Preston finished third and fourth overall respectively in Sol RB19, while Coelho finished sixth overall and third of the trio entered in the R5 class.

Based on the nip and tuck competition seen in last month’s HammerTime20 double-header sprint, in which Coelho and Hill shared the class wins one in each direction, a record field of seven R5 cars promises some thrills for spectators next month. More than that, bets are already being taken on how they will fare against the fastest of the island’s SuperModified 2 drivers, such as Barry Mayers (Fiesta) and Josh Read (Toyota Starlet), who split the R5 runners at HammerTime20.

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