REIGNING British Rally Champion Matt Edwards took a sensational victory on home soil as he kick-started his title defence in the best possible style by wining the Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally.

Along with new co-driver Patrick Walsh, the M-Sport driver, who is from Rhos-on-Sea, won the opening round of the season in fine style by winning the Llandudno-based event by 26.5 seconds.

2011 BRC Champion David Bogie and navigator John Rowan brought their Skoda Fabia R5 into second place while Marty McCormack drove his similar machine to a fine third overall with Barney Mitchell reading the notes.

The 2019 British Rally Championship got underway on Saturday with the spectacular Visit Conwy Cambrian Rally providing the exciting season curtain raiser. New for 2019 was the Service Park, right in the heart of Llandudno town centre – bringing Britain’s premier rallying series closer to shoppers and café goers in the seaside resort.

From the town centre start, the BRC crews ventured into ten legendary Welsh forestry stages, with 60 competitive miles providing the opening round gauntlet.

Defending champion Edwards clinched the 2018 title on Wales Rally GB four months ago and returned to the scene on Saturday to claim the victory.

"This has to be the dream come true, the title was amazing last year, but this has to be the icing on the cake," he said following his win.

"I have been watching this event since I can remember and to win it as a BRC round with the top ten out today, I didn’t think it was possible. I put some faith in the car, in the team and the package that we had – I just drove and after the first few stages I thought, this is on, we can do this.

"We have been pushed hard for it all day, the event may have only been 58 miles but it felt like 158. It’s amazing to do it in front of a home crowd. To do it on the high street I grew up on is something else."

Edwards wasn’t the quickest out of the blocks on the first stage however. That honour went to sparring partner David Bogie. The Scotsman drew first blood and was determined to take the fight to Edwards.

Edwards was not going to be beaten in his own backyard though and on stage two, he began his march and took the lead on the Alwen test. He then took a further seven fastest stage times to eventually return to Llandudno town centre to spray the champagne.

Bogie rolled out of the first round last year and was determined to get his season underway with a bang. The Flying Scotsman strung a solid day together behind the wheel of his Czech machine and claimed a fine second place after a ding-dong battle with Tom Cave.

Cave returned to the BRC after a years absence and brought the Michelin-shod Hyundai i20 R5 to the Welsh stages. On his home BRC event, he pushed the previous champions to the limit and traded times with Bogie in the fight for the rostrum positions. Going into the night stages Cave trailed Bogie but turned the tables after the first test under moonlight.

However, disaster was to strike when the Welshman was on the final stage, two punctures dropped the Hyundai driver down the order. With no more spares in the car, he and Dale Bowen were forced to retire – unable to get back to Llandudno.

Irishman James Wilson won his first Junior BRC event after an explosive battle in the front-wheel-drive R2 category. The Peugeot 208 R2 driver kept his head down and minimised the mistakes and under the watchful eye of 2014 BRC co-drivers champion Arthur Kierans, the pair took to the Ceremonial Finish and scooped £2,500 from Peugeot UK and Total.

British Rally Championship Driver Standings in full:

1. Matt Edwards – 25

2. David Bogie – 18

3. Marty McCormack – 15

4. Desi Henry – 12

5. Josh Moffett – 10

6. Meirion Evans – 8

7. Brendan Cumiskey – 6

8. Thomas Preston – 4

9. Alex Laffey – 2

10. James Wilson – 1

British Rally Championship Co-Driver Standings:

1. Patrick Walsh – 25

2. John Rowan – 18

3. Barney Mitchell – 15

4. Liam Moynihan – 12

5. Keith Moriarty – 10

6. Jonathan Jackson– 8

7. Ronan O’Kane – 6

8. Andrew Roughead – 4

9. Stuart Loudon – 2

10. Arthur Kierans – 1