British Rally Championship frontrunner Matt Edwards has secured a full works-backed drive with M-Sport on next month’s Wales Rally GB.
The Welshman, who finished third in the BRC points this year, will handle a factory-entered Ford Fiesta R5 in the WRC2 division of Britain’s world championship counter. Patrick Walsh will partner him as co-driver.
Edwards was drafted in by M-Sport to score points for the manufacturer in the BRC Team’s Championship on the final round, Rally Isle of Man, in which he finished second on both legs. That helped to give Keith Cronin – M-Sport’s lead driver – the championship as Fredrik Ahlin needed a pair of seconds if Cronin won both legs.
Edwards was already due to be part of Rally GB, but only as driver for the zero car before this opportunity came along.
“It doesn’t seem real,” said Edwards. “You’ve dreamt about it since you started watching rallying and then, all of a sudden, I’m going to do it now.
“The biggest thing it can do for me is give me some much-needed gravel mileage ahead of next year’s BRC. Three days in the car that you can really build on.
“I’ll approach it in the same way as the BRC, we’ll try and get faster as the event goes on and try and put some strong times in by the end.”
M-Sport client liaison manager Rich Millener says that Edwards has impressed the M-Sport squad this year.
“Matt has done really well this year and he’s made us aware of what he’s capable of,” he said. “It’s great for us, we’ve wanted to see where his pace is at and WRC2 will be a real challenge.
“Obviously we’ve known him for a long time – he used to work here – now he’s driving for us and that’s great for him, he’s put a lot of effort in and gone through the whole ladder of opportunity. He’s driven Ford cars for most of his career. That keeps him on the radar.”
Edwards is ready for a second stint with his Swift team in the BRC with the Fiesta next year, but Motorsport News understands that he could now join the M-Sport team with Swift Caravans backing for 2018.
Millener added: “Malcolm is in contact with Matt and is aware of what he’s achieved. It’s too early to say what we’ll be doing next year (in relation to BRC), but this will be a good opportunity to get him into the team with a view to looking at 2018.”