A rising talent on the New Zealand rally scene, Kerikeri’s Stephen Barker has won the opportunity to travel to the United Kingdom in November to represent the country in the prestigious Fiesta SportTrophy International shootout.

Twenty-two-year-old Barker is the current recipient of the Rally New Zealand Rising Stars Scholarship and was selected as the Kiwi representative at the internationally-recognised Fiesta shootout after finishing the local rally season as the best-placed Ford Fiesta driver. This result earned Barker the 2010 New Zealand Fiesta SportTrophy, an annual award made possible with the support of sponsors such as Peter Johnston of Genuine Vehicle Imports and Auckland Ssangyong.

When Barker attends the Fiesta SportTrophy International shootout on 17 and18 November, he follows in the footsteps of other talented Kiwi rally drivers like Emma Gilmour and Mark Tapper who have contested the shootout since its inception in 2006.

The Fiesta SportTrophy International (FSTi) is a one-make rally series run in ten countries, including New Zealand, developed by Ford’s global rally-sport partner, M-Sport. As well as having official status at World Rally Championship events, the FSTi series includes this end-of-year shootout that offers Barker and other young rally drivers the chance to win a year's contract to work at M-Sport with the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team.

“Obviously this is a fantastic opportunity for me personally and also offers me the chance to represent New Zealand on my first overseas drive,” says Barker. “I have been focused on getting to the shootout all year – that goal has been at the heart of all my preparation and competition. I’ve been fortunate to have had lots of help and advice from other Kiwis that have been to the shootout, so I am confident that I can do well.”

Shootout participants compete in media, mental and physical assessments on the opening day of the two-day shootout, while the second day sees contestants take to the forests around M-Sport’s Cumbrian base in the north of England to demonstrate their driving talents. After combining the results of all the tests, M-Sport boss Malcolm Wilson interviews the top five contenders before deciding the winner.

The worldwide rules governing the Fiesta SportTrophy mean that the car Barker drive during the shootout is identical to the Rising Stars-backed Ford Fiesta he has used in the NZRC this year.

“It is very exciting to see Stephen will represent New Zealand at this important opportunity for up-and-coming rally drivers,” says Rally New Zealand’s clerk of the course Willard Martin. “The concept of testing is very similar to what he and the other contestants of the Rally New Zealand Rising Stars Scholarship went through at the end of last year, so we’re looking forward to seeing Stephen produce another top result.”

Barker also won the 2010 Group N two-wheel-drive New Zealand championship title in the Vantage New Zealand Rally Championship after his first full rally championship season.

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