J-WRC Rookie champion Hunts down FSTi title in Wales
- 5th November 2010, 10:31am
The Fiesta SportTrophy International (FSTi) championship will reach a thrilling climax next week as Ford Fiesta R2 crews travel to Wales for the final round of this year’s hotly contested one-make series.
Britain’s Harry Hunt looks set for championship glory with Team Abu Dhabi challenger Bader Al Jabri unable to attend the rally due to exam commitments. Majed Al Shamsi has a mathematical chance of winning the championship by six points providing that Hunt and FSTi rookie Pierre-Alexandre Perrin fail to score any points at all.
Wales Rally GB is the final event of this year’s FIA World Rally Championship and will begin with a brand new Super Special Stage on Thursday 11 November in Cardiff Bay. With 18 gravel stages, the two runs of the Cardiff Bay Super Special Stage will provide a great spectacle, but will be particularly tricky for drivers, as all cars will run a gravel set-up on the asphalt surface. The four-day event will feature a total distance of 1,612 km, comprising of 20 special stages covering 359 km.
Harry Hunt (22) & Sebastian Marshall (22) – Fiesta R2
FSTi position: 1
The British pairing of Harry Hunt and Sebastian Marshall have secured two victories in the FSTi championship this year: the first at the Rally of Turkey in April and the second at the Rallye de France in October. With an impressive 38 point lead over Al Shamsi, the duo are aiming to score a winning hat-trick in Wales in order to finish their season on a high and to secure championship glory. Having competed at the final Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) round in Cyprus the weekend prior to Wales Rally GB, Hunt will be looking to build on the extensive experience he has gained from driving the Fiesta R2 this season in order to clinch his first championship title.
FSTi leader, Harry Hunt (22), said:
“I’m feeling really confident about winning the championship in Wales – we’ve got a comfortable lead over Majed [Al Shamsi] and if we manage a clear run next week then hopefully the title should be ours. I’m competing in my last IRC event in Cyprus this weekend – it’s similar to Spain and consists of mixed surfaces, but the gravel stages will be good preparation for competing at GB. I was disappointed to hear that Bader [Al Jabri] isn’t competing next week – it was going to be a very close battle. Even though I’m 38 points clear of Majed, there is still a possibility that I could lose the championship; a tiny slip-up could have irreparable consequences and I will be trying desperately hard not to let that happen. It’s been a fantastic year for us and to win the championship would just be the icing on the cake.”
Majed Al Shamsi & Stephen McAuley – Fiesta R2
FSTi position: 4
Majed Al Shamsi has claimed two podium finishes in this year’s FSTi, finishing first at the Vodafone Rally de Portugal and second at ADAC Rallye Deutschland. A retirement on the Rallye de France and an incident on the opening day at Rally de España may have since knocked the Emirate driver’s confidence, but Al Shamsi successfully battled back in Spain to move into fourth position in the standings. The Team Abu Dhabi driver has recruited Bader Al Jabri’s co-driver Stephen McAuley for the rally instead of regular team-mate Alan Harryman. While this new pairing may take a little while for each to become familiar with the other, Al Shamsi has a strong advantage next week as he is the only FSTi entry who has previously contested Wales Rally GB. Despite having to retire on Day 2 last year when he hit a tree stump and rolled his car, the Emirate will be looking to take full advantage of his past experience in Wales in order to challenge Hunt for championship glory.
Pierre-Alexandre Perrin (23) & Gaétan Houssin - Fiesta R2
FSTi position: N/A
WRC debutants Pierre-Alexandre Perrin & Gaétan Houssin will make up the final FSTi crew competing in Wales and marks the French pairing’s first outing in FSTi. With the Wales Rally GB Newcomer’s Award up for grabs, Perrin will be looking to impress as he tackles the challenging Welsh stages in his Fiesta R2. The 23-year-old was among six finalists at “Rallye Jenues” (a French national selection programme) and also finished second at last year’s Rallye de Touquet. Ahead of Wales Rally GB, Perrin will contest this weekend’s Condroz Rally, which marks the final round of this year’s FST Belgium championship. The Frenchman will be eligible for the Newcomers Award at Wales Rally GB where he and three other entries will battle it out for an International Drivers Members Club (IRDC) membership.
FST International Shootout
As in previous years, the series winner plus one 'wildcard' will be decided on Sunday 14 November. Both drivers will be put forward for the FST International Shootout on Wednesday 17 and Thursday 18 November at M-Sport in Cumbria. The overall winner will be awarded with a year's contract to work at M-Sport with the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team.
FSTi drivers will be competing for the top spot to receive an all-expenses-paid test in M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta S2000 with BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver Mikko Hirvonen, with the chance to discuss the test with the flying Finn and M-Sport Managing Director Malcolm Wilson OBE. A prize fund is also available from which the winner of each rally will receive a €1,500 M-Sport voucher. FSTi competitors who have competed in five of more events this year are also eligible for a ‘taster’ test in the Fiesta S2000.
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