Richie Dalton will complete an incredible turnaround when he drives his Ford Fiesta Proto over the start line of the Forest Rally in Western Australia next week.
The Sydney-based Irishman had all but resigned himself to the fact that his under-performing Fiesta would be parked in a container with the door closed after a disappointing 2018 season.
Reliability and set-up issues with the car thwarted his assault on the 2018 New Zealand Rally Championship, and totally fed up with the car, Dalton had set his sights on having some fun in a newly-built Ford Escort Mk2 this year.
But all that changed when Justin Dowel's rallycross series was cancelled .
"The Fiesta ended up back at JD's (Dowel) workshop in Melbourne," Dalton explained.
"The ARC rules were modified to allow G4 spec cars back in, and before I knew it we were entered for the first round of the ARC in WA."
The Fiesta has since been prepared by Justin Dowel's Activ RallySport team, and under the watchful eye of head mechanic Will Orders.
"Towards the end of last year the car was quick and reliable, but it was way too heavy and it wouldn't turn in to corners well," Dalton said.
"Will has got about 50kg in weight from the car, including about 7kg just by changing the seats.
Nathan Quinn (L) and Richie Dalton were NZ regulars last year. Photo: Geoff Ridder
"It will still probably be 30kg over the 1300kg weight minimum, but last year we were well over the 1400kg mark when competing in New Zealand."
“But we are confident it will be a completely different car with the weight reduction and set up changes.”
In Western Australia the car will continue to run with a 34mm turbo restrictor, but with a WRC turbo that will give the car quicker response.
And, perhaps most interestingly, the car will be fitted with a new rear wing.
Dalton's initial plans for the car was to contest the ARC in 2017, but CAMS regulations didn't allow the car to be used with a two-plane rear wing. The wing was used in New Zealand last year, but still isn't allowed in Australia.
"I'm really looking forward to getting into the car and testing it early next week," Dalton added.
"If it handles how it is supposed to, then it will be great fun, although I'm really not too concerned about the result in WA, as long as I enjoy the experience.
"I've never competed in WA before, and being seeded second on the road will be a real challenge on the ball bearing surface roads, so it will be interesting.
"I can't wait."
Meanwhile, Dalton's new Escort is awaiting the rear end to be delivered from Queensland, before it makes its debut - probably in a round of the East Coast Classic Rally Series.
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