Fiestas to be life of party
- 30th November 2006, 5:41pm
As predicted on RallySport Magazine over a month ago, Ford will continue their involvement in the NEC Australian Rally Championship in 2007 with a pair of 4WD Fiestas, to be driven by Michael Guest and Darren Windus, replacing the rear wheel drive Focus campaigned by Guest in 2006. The cars will be the first Super 2000 cars to be seen in the Championship and should prove to be not only exciting to watch, but competitive as well. The Super 2000 category is for 2 litre normally aspirated 4WD vehicles.
Announcing their program on November 29, Britek Rallye Sport, who will run the Ford program from their Dandenong South (Victoria) workshop under the Pirtek Rally Team banner, confirmed they had taken delivery of a Super 1600 Fiesta previously used by Italy's Astra Motorsports and it is this car that will form the basis of the first Super 2000 car to run in the ARC.
The Pirtek Rally Team are still in the throes of finalizing its management lineup but so far have confirmed that popular Queensland competitor, Stewart Reid, will lead the team and act as on-event manager. Reid has had extensive rally experience as a competitor over many years and is a former member and manager of the Precision Driving Team. Reid will be backed up by an experienced team consisting of Barry Game, Paul Kane and Gavin Selth. Game and Kane, both key members of the Subaru Australia Rally Team during the Possum Bourne period, will look after the technical and mechanical side of the team, while Selth will be in charge of the engine program. He is a former member of the Ford World Rally Team, having worked with many of the leading European rally teams. More staff to work on the program are yet to be recruited.
According to Britek General Manager, Chris Jewell, a lot of work has been done already with Ford in Australia and Europe to get things in motion. "We now have a busy period ahead of the first (ARC) event on the Sunshine Coast at the end of March. I have to say that I've been inundated with interest from highly-regarded people involved with rallying," Jewell said. "This has made the process of planning towards 2007 a lot easier."
One of the Fiestas will be crewed by Michael Guest and Mark Stacey while the second car will be driven by Darren Windus and Jon Mortimer. Guest, a former Group N Australian Rally Champion in 1996 and '97, is no stranger to the team, having had a controversial career with the uncompetitive rear wheel drive Focus which debuted this year. He struggled with the Focus all season, rarely getting into the top ten placings in the Championship. Windus, a Victorian now living in Perth, is a talented driver who finished fifth in the 2006 NEC ARC, driving his privately-entered Subaru WRX, and will be a strong support for Guest.
Inevitably questions will be raised about the suitablity of the Fiesta for top-level regional rallying, given its smaller size when compared to its big brother, the Focus. While its length, wheelbase and track are a deal smaller than the Focus and, for that matter, its likely competitors - Subaru Impreza, Mitsubishi Lancer and Toyota Corolla - those inadequacies would not seem to be the biggest problem. Shoe-horning a 2 litre motor and four wheel drive gearbox and transmission into the small chassis could be one of the biggest challenges that Britek face. However, Astra Motorsports in Italy, from where the car came, have been running a Fiesta this season in the Fiesta Sporting Trophy which is promoted by Ford. In addition, M-Sport's Malcolm Wilson (who is also in charge of Ford's World Rally Championship program) has been turning out large numbers of 1600cc Fiestas for privateer competitors contesting the FST around the world. The Fiesta Sporting Trophy runs alongside the Junior World Rally Championship over three tarmac and three gravel events each season.
With a proven platform on which to base their Super 2000 car, Britek will be a long way down the track to having the car fully competitive by the time other manufacturers have S2000 cars ready to rally in Australia. Whether they can build and sufficiently test the cars before the first round of the ARC, Coates Rally Queensland in March, is another guess.
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