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Three-time British Rally champion Matt Edwards was unbeatable in Yorkshire last weekend, storming to a dominant victory in the Fuchs Lubricants British Historic Rally Championship at the Trackrod Historic Cup [23-24 September].

Edwards and co-driver Hamish Campbell set the fastest stage time on each of the event’s six stages in their FIAT 131 Abarth to take their third win of the 2022 season. The pairing finished an impressive one minute and twenty-seven seconds up the road from second-placed Simon Webster, with Ben Friend rounding out the podium in third.

Victory for Edwards in Yorkshire also means he throws his hat into the ring for the coveted BHRC title, as series leader Henri Grehan endured a difficult weekend in the tricky conditions.

The infamous Dalby Forest would host to the opening stage on Friday night, with an 11-mile blast under the cover of darkness to test the crews’ mettle on the two-day event. Having stormed through the super-quick stage just 12 months ago in modern R5 machinery, Edwards was quickest out the blocks, but it was the gap to second which was perhaps the biggest surprise.

Nearest challengers were series leaders Grehan and co-driver Dan Petrie in their Ford Escort MKII but were a significant 22 seconds slower after map light issues forced Petrie to utilise a torch to read the notes.

That would set the tone for the remainder of the event as Grehan endured a trip into a ditch on the opening daylight stage on Saturday, losing over two minutes in the process. It was reigning champions Friend and Cliff Simmons that entered the fray on the second day, a time just three seconds shy of Edwards saw them vault into second place as the pairing began to find the pace they had been missing for much of this season.

But Friend only had a 0.7s cushion over Webster heading into the final two stages of the day and it was the 2019 champion and co-driver Alun Cook that emerged nine seconds to the good on the penultimate test, eventually holding on to take Webster’s best result of the season so far.

Meanwhile, Edwards was in a class of his own, putting his Woodpecker Rally final stage retirement firmly behind him to seal an important victory in his maiden BHRC title chase season.

“It’s certainly a bit of a different prospect from 12 months ago when we were here [in the BRC] but the FIAT has been fun to drive,” said Edwards.

“It’s been tricky and slippy but it’s nice when the car is in the palm of your hand rather than floundering a bit with it. It’s getting there and Hamish did a great job today. It’s fast in there at times.”

With Grehan eventually hauling his way back up to sixth, the race for the title now goes down to the final round, the Carlisle Stages Rally in October. Edwards will be eyeing a win, but it will ultimately rest on where Grehan finishes that will decide the 2022 crown.

Richard Jordan and James Gratton-Smith enjoyed their best BHRC result in fourth. Debuting a newly built Ford Escort MKII showed promise for the future with a string of consistent times the perfect baptism for the new machine.

Heading into the event, Nick Elliott was also in with a shout of entering the title race but would park his and co-driver Dave Price’s FIAT 131 Abarth up with electrical issues. Robert Gough and Sam Collis also visited a similar ditch to Grehan but would eventually retire their Ford Escort before the finish thanks to a light roll.

It was a back-to-back Category Two [cars between 1968-1975] victory for Chris Skill and Brian Hodgson who added to their Woodpecker win with a Trackrod top score. Like Edwards, it was a dominant performance with six fastest stage times from the Ford Escort MK1 pairing, finishing almost a minute and a half ahead of Josh Carr and Richard Wardle in their similar machine.

Bob Bean and Mike Curry continued their Category One [cars up to 1968] dominance, taking the win in their Lotus Cortina ahead of Friday night leaders Terry Cree and Richard Shores in their Mini Cooper S.

Top Five Provisional Points after Round 5 – Trackrod Historic Cup

Henri Grehan 126
Matt Edwards 100
Nick Elliott 87
Robert Gough 76
Ben Friend 70

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