Lee Edwards has taken an early lead in the Ford Escort Challenge, after the 32-year old from Oswestry made a sensational Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship debut on The Old Forge Garage Mewla Rally.
Lee, a procurement manager for an independent Shropshire builder’s merchant, finished 13th overall in his self-built Ford Escort G3 on Epynt – and heads to this weekend’s second round of the series, the Hills Ford Three Shires Stages Rally, 11th in the overall Protyre Asphalt drivers’ standings and leading the highly-competitive B11 class.
Having started navigating on road rallies at the age of 17, Lee built himself a Peugeot 106 and started driving. He quickly climbed the ranks up to the Expert class, but rolled the car whilst doing course car duties, writing it off.
Lee purchased the Escort in 2012 – it is a Titan RWD conversion, which was originally built in 1992.
Being 20 years old the car was showing signs of wear and tear, so he stripped it down and rebuilt it and resprayed it orange. Lee’s initial plans were to contest road rallies in it, but a year or so later rear-wheel drive converted cars were outlawed in road rallying, so he changed it to stage rally spec.
In addition to preparing the car himself, Lee maintains and rebuild its Ford ST170 engine, Quaife 60G sequential gearbox and Gripper LSD axle himself.
Now established as a very fast and capable stage rally driver, Lee won the last event he contested before lockdown – the 2019 AGBO Stages Rally at Weston Park.
And together with Will Atkins on the pace notes, the opening round of the 2021 Protyre Motorsport UK Asphalt Rally Championship was another great performance.
“I’ve only been up to Epynt a handful of times, so I wouldn’t say that I’m very familiar with all of the roads – but nonetheless we gave it one hundred percent on the Mewla,” said Lee.
“The day started well for us, with a good tyre choice and nice clean runs through the first three stages. We chose to go out for the next loop of three stages on the same tyres which again I was happy with, but struggled after losing the brakes quite early on in stage six.
“Stage seven, being the first of the longer stages, we went on to medium tyres all round which felt good, but again lacking confidence in the brakes. It was the same again on stages eight and nine with the brakes and with the addition of coolant temperature issues distracting me too. Our main focus was then to bring the car home and secure the points, not knowing where we were in class or overall position at the time.
“I’m looking forward to the Three Shires. I really enjoy the closed road rallies with the technicality of them suiting both me and the car. We are first 2000cc car on the road and will give it our best shot to maintain that position through the event. I have a change of co-driver for this one [Robbie Pugh] as Will already had previous commitments with another driver, so might take a little time to adapt.
“As for the season ahead, we have the entries in for all rounds so far and I’m excited to get stuck in.
“My wife and I are due our second baby in early November, so this might mean I won’t be able to make the last round in Ireland.”