The stage is set for a thrilling Super 2000 World Rally Championship (S-WRC) title fight between Jari Ketomaa and Xevi Pons at Wales Rally GB next week.
At the previous S-WRC round in France, Martin Prokop’s sixth-place finish dashed the Czech driver’s hopes for the championship title.  However, Jari Ketomaa’s second-place finish launched him back into title contention and the Finn currently lies in third position - only seven points adrift of championship leader Xevi Pons.
Pons will be aiming for a victory at Wales Rally GB in a bid to win the series but with only nine points separating the Spaniard, Jari Ketomaa and Patrik Sandell competition is set to be fierce.
The award-winning Ford Fiesta S2000 has claimed podium finishes in eight of the nine rounds of the S-WRC so far, and M-Sport’s new generation rally car currently occupies the top three spots in the overall standings with only event remaining.
Ketomaa, Pons and Bernardo Sousa will all be competing for S-WRC honours next week but fellow Ford Fiesta S2000 drivers Craig Breen and Dennis Kuipers will also join the N4 class in Wales.
Xevi Pons got off to a flying start in 2010, taking victory at both Mexico and Jordan.  The Spanish driver has continued to produce a series of strong results to maintain his position at the top of the leaderboard but with only nine points separating the top three S-WRC contenders, the Spaniard cannot afford to rest on his laurels and will be aiming to score a winning hat-trick in Wales to secure his hopes of championship glory.
A polished performance from Jari Ketomaa at Rally Japan meant the Finn was the first Ford Fiesta S2000 driver to claim three victories in the S-WRC. This was then followed by a strong second-place finish in France which launched Ketomaa back into podium position.  The Finn is now ideally placed to steal the lead from Pons and is aiming for a victory in Wales to strengthen his chances of winning the title.
Bernardo Sousa had a troubled time at the previous two S-WRC rounds in Japan and France. However, after recently being crowned the youngest ever winner of the Portuguese Rally Championship (CPR) Sousa’s confidence is high and the young driver will be looking to top his fourth place on home soil at Rally de Portugal in May, which remains his best performance in the S-WRC to date.
M-Sport entry Dennis Kuipers is not registered to score points in the S-WRC but has used this season to further develop his understanding of M-Sport’s new generation rally car. This will be the second time that the 24-year-old Dutch driver has contested Wales Rally GB and Kuipers will be looking to improve on his 16th place finish from last year’s event.
Craig Breen is another M-Sport entry who has had a busy season contesting rounds of the British Rally Championship (BRC) in the award-winning Ford Fiesta S2000.  The young Irish driver contested Neste Oil Rally Finland in July finishing 19th overall but will be looking to pick up the pace in Wales to challenge the other S2000 drivers for a podium position.
Xevi Pons said:
“I’ve not competed on gravel for nearly four months now – the last two S-WRC rounds were on asphalt so I had a test on Thursday to try and prepare myself for a return to gravel stages.  I competed in Wales in 2007 and I remember the roads were very fast. It was a difficult event – the weather can also be very challenging on this rally.  I’ve been training very hard recently and I really hope that the fitness training will pay off when I’m competing in Wales.  I’m aiming to win - it would the perfect end to the season.”
Jari Ketomaa said:
“I’m very excited about going to Wales next week and I have a good feeling about this rally.  My only target is to win and I plan to fight from the beginning to ensure this is possible.  I competed in Wales two years ago and I liked the stages – it is a legendary event in the WRC calendar and the stages are very nice.  I’ve got a test on Monday and I hope it will go well.  This year’s Wales Rally GB could be one of the most important rallies of my career and I am desperate to win.”
Bernardo Sousa said:
“I’ve had a really good season this year and was very happy to become the youngest ever winner of the Portuguese Rally Championship last month. A good position in Wales could be the icing on the cake but we will just have to see how things go.  I think the weather could make the stages in Wales very slippery and it will be a tricky event.”
Dennis Kuipers said:
“I am looking forward to Wales Rally GB.  In 2009 I contested the rally for the first time and finished 16th overall. I found it a very nice, but difficult rally because of the changing weather conditions but I liked it because it is a real challenge. There is strong competition in Wales but I’m looking forward to competing against the other S2000 drivers.  For me this season has been a very educational year – I’ve gained a lot of experience with the Fiesta S2000 and during our pre-event test sessions we learned a lot about set-up.”
Craig Breen said:
“We set some really good times in Finland and I think if we push from Day One then we could challenge the other S2000 drivers for a podium position.  Wales Rally GB was a good rally for me last year – obviously this year is going to be different as we’re not in the [Fiesta] R2 but I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta S2000 for another WRC event. We actually did some of the stages as part of the Bulldog Rally back in March – some of the tests were run in opposite directions but it was all good preparation for next week.”
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