Current British Rally Championship leader Matt Edwards dominated the Eventsigns Woodpecker Stages Rally at the weekend (1st September) to win the Ludlow based event and seal the Jordan Road Surfacing BTRDA title in the process.

Edwards, guided in the co-driver's seat by Darren Garrod, overcame a puncture on the Haye Park test to take victory in his Fiesta R5 by over 30 seconds from Luke Francis and John Roberts in their WRC version of the Ford. Stephen Petch and Michael Wilkinson rounded off the top three in their similar machine, making it a Fiesta podium lockout that sprayed the champagne at Ludlow Racecourse on Saturday evening.

Around 140 rally crews left the start line on Saturday morning with competitors from around the world enjoying a new format with two-wheel-drive crews running first on the road, followed by the four-wheel-drive versions soon after. Organised by Sixty and Worcestershire Motor Club, the weekend marked the 35th anniversary of the rally which took crews into the Marches and Powys forests.

All eyes were on the battle for overall honours as a decent result for Edwards would mean he could seal the BTRDA honours with a decent finish in Shropshire.

Edwards wasted no time in stamping his authority on the pack, setting a time 14 second faster than anyone else in the opening stage, High Vinnalls. Francis would be second quickest but at a loss to explain the deficit after just six miles of competitive action. Petch stopped the clocks a further six seconds back and that would be how they would finish some 44 miles later. Hugh Hunter was an early casualty with engine failure in his Fiesta, as was Ian Joel who took a wheel off his Ford Escort Cosworth.

There would be no change to the leader board through the opening loop and despite Edwards suffering a puncture in the fourth test, his lead into the last three stages was a confident 27 seconds. By the penultimate stage, his lead had increased to almost a minute and try as they might, Francis or Petch could do nothing about the pace of the North Walian.

A last-minute scare for the Swift Group baked driver did not dent his ambition any, dropping over 30 seconds on the final stage with a puncture. But Edwards crossed the finish ramp to spray the champagne with five fastest stage times from seven, taking a well earned win, scooping the BTRDA title with a round to spare in the process.

"This is such a sentimental title for me", said Edwards the finish.

"You know, with my Dad working on events in the championship and competing here for so many years and its such a great championship to win. I love all the events in the series but this one is fantastic and has some amazing stages. It's a real honour to win this one and get the title in the bag".

The car looks bad doesnt it. We must have had a slow puncture somewhere and on the first corner of the last stage it almost went all wrong and it almost swapped ends on us. It de-laminated and took the bodywork with it so its looks worse than it is.

Martyn and Dawn England found a late spurt of pace to secure fourth overall in their Fiesta R5, taking that position away from Dylan Davies and Llion Wiiliams on the penultimate stage. They eventually took their Subaru Impreza to fifth.

Local crews also enjoyed success on the stages, with Joe Price and Chris Brooks from Ludlow sealing the class B11 honours and first two-wheel-drive home. Price had not been out in his Ford Escort MK2 since the Pirelli Rally in April so was pleased to bring it home safely with a top result to boot.

Also from Ludlow, John Antony Caine drove his Subaru Impreza to 13th spot with co-driver Lucy Wilding from Wigmore alongside. Dave and Toby Brick took first 1400S crew home in their Vauxhall Nova after a tussle with local returnee Neil Weaver. However, Weaver and co-driver Nick Thornton did not emerge from the final test, handing the victory to Brick despite leading into the final loop.

There was an international flavour to the 2018 rally, thanks to competitors from Italy, Iceland and South Africa.

Dave Harris made the 12,000 mile return trip from South Africa worthwhile one, bringing his RallyMe Subaru Impreza home to finish his first rally in around 35 years with Dood Pearce alongside. He also was awarded the Spirit of the Rally for his efforts.

Icelandic legend Palli Halldar Halldarsson and Johannes Johannesson celebrated 20 years since winning the Icelandic National Championship by taking 55th overall in their Subaru Impreza.

Sponsored once again by Midlands-based signage specialists Eventsigns, the event was a qualifying round of the the BTRDA and Welsh Championships, the Maxxis Tyres MSA English Rally Championship, the Restruct Ltd & Welsh Clubmans Mixed Surface Rally Championship, the ANWCC Forest Rally Championship FMP Rally Challenge and the Brian Dennis Motorsport Welsh Historic Rally Championship.

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