Progressive rally driver Eddie Lewis proved that he is “not there to make up the numbers” after an impressive performance at the opening round of the Junior British Rally Championship last weekend, the Cambrian Rally (8th February).
Lewis, aged 18 from Newark, led the Junior BRC contingent after the opening stage and set a string of top times, before a puncture and subsequent steering issue forced the youngster down the leader board to just miss out on a podium position on the final stage of the rally, finishing fourth.
The Mechanical Solutions backed pilot would embark on his debut season in the Junior BRC in 2020 after honing his skills on the F1000 Junior Rally Championship circuit in his early years, before switching to a new-generation Ford Fiesta R2 last season. The new-look series reverts to a single-make formula this year, with all contenders driving the M-Sport built machines.
The ultra-competitive championship sees aspiring young drivers compete for a €60,000 prize fund towards a 2021 campaign in the FIA Junior World Rally Championship thanks to M-Sport and Pirelli.
Co-driven by Dom Adams, Lewis would head to the Llandudno based event, and the scene of his World Rally Championship debut last season with the aim of securing a solid points haul to kick start his season. An impressive array of rivals would line up to start their season, all eager to be in with the best possible chance of a result at the seven-stage and 43-mile event.
With the opening stage of the rally a short affair, crews would be forgiven for having to acclimatise to the stages but Lewis laid down his intentions from the off. Despite being his very first stage in the Junior British rally Championship, Lewis stormed to fastest time through the Crafnant test to lead the category.
“It’s hard to know what pace you are driving at to be honest, but it felt a good enough stage for us,” he said at the end of the first test. “I took it fairly steady so it’s a surprise to be leading at this point, it’s a good start that’s for sure”.
Lewis would continue to punch in some solid stage times over the remaining gravel stages in the morning loop and was never outside of the top three times. A tough run over the iconic Great Orme asphalt test in Llandudno meant Lewis would lose a little time to his rivals, but he would head into the final three stages of the event in a comfortable third overall.
Sadly, the Fiesta would pick up a puncture in the rock-strewn second pass of Gwydir which would haemorrhage over thirty seconds and force him into a battle for the final podium spot on the last test. The puncture ultimately caused some unseen steering damage, forcing Lewis to back off over the final stage of the event, dropping to fourth in the process.
“It’s so frustrating to finish fourth after winning the first stage of the season against some really quick drivers,” said Lewis at the end.
“I knew something wasn’t quite right as soon as we started the last stage and it meant we really couldn’t push too hard. It’s disappointing to finish outside of the podium but there are plenty of positives to take away from our performance this weekend”.
Lewis believes that he has surpassed his expectation in the Welsh forests.
“If you told me I’d be setting fastest stage times and competing for a podium result this time last week I certainly would have taken that” he continues.
“We have laid down a statement of intent with our times this weekend and it shows that we mean business. I know it’s a long season and the points will ultimately be very valuable, but this proves that we are not here to make up the numbers. The next round will be much harder as I’ve never contested a closed road event before, but I’m eager to learn and hopefully, a podium could be in sight once again.”
The British Rally Championship heads to Ireland for round two, as the closed public roads around Clonakilty host the West Cork Rally in March.
Eddie is backed by Mechanical Solutions, SSSI Ltd, Newark Steel, John Haugland Winter Rally School, Speedline Corse & Pirelli.