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The 2007 Fiesta SportingTrophy (FST) International Shootout has been won by FST UK wildcard Adam Gould this week at M-Sport’s base in northern England. Eleven nationalities made up the 23-strong group who ventured from as far as New Zealand to compete for one of the most sought after development prizes in world class rallying - one year’s work experience and training at M-Sport with the BP-Ford World Rally Team.
 
This year’s Shootout invited first- and second-placed competitors and one wildcard from each national FST championship plus the International series to compete over two days for the overall prize. The Shootout began on Monday with the group split into three and run through three crucial sections within the sport; physical, psychological and media. Part two of competition took all 23 drivers into the famous Greystoke Forest for the next major test – driving ability. Following the driving, M-Sport Managing Director Malcolm Wilson selected five drivers for the final test: a one-to-one interview to show why they should be selected as this year’s winner.
 
The media section put competitors through an individual press conference situation, which was filmed and photographed in order to generate a realistic and intense environment. The panel was made up of seven international journalists, who grilled the contenders in a similar style to the way in which drivers racing in the World Rally Championship are questioned by the world’s media. Drivers were judged on five different criteria; appearance, answering questions, content, performance under pressure and personality. For this section it was Slovenian Marko Jeram representing FST Italy who came out on top with a string of intelligent, relevant and confident answers.
 
To gauge where the drivers’ rally-mentality lies, a psychological assessment was developed in conjunction with the Sports Psychology Department at Edinburgh University through a simple written assessment.  A series of questions were asked of the drivers and this information was then processed and compared to an optimum graph in which experts believe a driver would need to be to compete at the top-level. For this section it was Ford Rallye Sport Turkey driver Emre Yurdakul who topped the score sheets with an impressive 92% consistency level within the optimum.
 
Maintaining a peak level of fitness is something that all WRC drivers spend hours on each day in a sport which, physically, is one of the most demanding in the world. For this set of tests, M-Sport’s Personal Trainer Barry Johnson set up four personalised courses designed to cover the four primary physical aspects relating to rallying: core strength and stability, reaction time, muscle strength and endurance. After 45 minutes of intense testing, the contenders were challenged to the ‘bleep’ test, which was won by Shootout winner Gould. By the end of the day however, it was Swede Andreas Sjölander who top scored highest in the fitness section of the Shootout.
 
By the conclusion of day one, the top-five leaderboard looked as follows: Marko Jeram (Italy) 81%, Barry Clark (International) 79%, Andreas Sjölander (Sweden) 79%, Burcu Cetinkaya (Turkey) 78% and Adam Gould (UK) 77%.

Tuesday saw the final test between all 23 drivers, which consisted of three runs over the 3.5 kilometre Greystoke Forest stage, a test route for the BP-Ford World Rally Team. Of these three runs the two best times combined would give an official ‘stage’ time for each driver.
 
With Wilson present to view each competitor as they raced through the fast muddy stage, the competition was extremely close as each driver looked to impress. For this test, however, speed was not set as the essential, as Wilson looked at three main factors: improvement on time, consistency and commitment. Sjölander topped this section also, beating fellow Swedish competitor Jocke Nyman by a mere one second.
 
It was now decision time as Wilson, along with M-Sport Business Development Manager Andrew Wheatley, studied results and the information they had received over the two days to make a decision as to which five competitors would make it to the final interview stage. From this, the following five candidates were selected: Anthony Martin (Belgium), Emre Yurdakul (Turkey), Andreas Sjölander (Sweden), Barry Clark (International) and Adam Gould (UK).
 
All five showed vast maturity and confidence in their interview with the Team Principal of this year’s WRC Manufacturer winning team but, in the end, there could only be one winner and that man was 20-year-old Bristol driver, Adam Gould.
 
2007 FST International Shootout winner Adam Gould said:
“What an absolute dream. Winning the Shootout is the best thing to happen in my rallying career and now it gives me the opportunity to be involved in the sport at a level that many young drivers only dream of. We haven’t had the best of season in terms of results but the speed was there and I was so thankful to have been picked as the UK wildcard for the Shootout. Both days were a real challenge but I was determined to do my best to win this prize, as it is a great platform to progress forward in rallying. I’d like to thank Malcolm Wilson and everyone at M-Sport for making this decision in choosing me as the winner, next year is going to be a great experience and I’m really looking forward to spending the year at M-Sport and with the BP-Ford team.”
 
M-Sport Managing Director Malcolm Wilson said:
“The decision this year was especially difficult and the standard of competition was very high once again.  We hope that Adam [Gould] can continue the strong example shown by Victor [Henriksson} and maximise the benefits of this opportunity.  We wish him all the best for 2008 and look forward to welcoming him to M-Sport and the BP-Ford World Rally Team.”

Pic: www.cmwi.net

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