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MAXRALLY-backed Max Vatanen has achieved his objective of becoming top rookie in the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy. The 24-year-old Finn put in a strong performance on the Rally of Spain – the only event of the year to be held on both gravel and asphalt – in order to secure fourth place overall on the rally and the championship.

With equal cars, tyres and infrastructure, the championship puts the emphasis firmly on driving talent: nothing else makes the difference. And with five rounds that all count towards the final result, it’s a test of nerve and consistency as well as skill. Points are additionally awarded for fastest stage times, so this makes the Fiesta series a true reflection of the drivers who have the speed and reliability to go all the way to the top.

By winning the coveted top rookie prize, Max has proved that he has both in abundance. Next year he is set to continue in the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy, with an eye on the overall top prize of a Ford Fiesta R5 drive in the WRC2 section of the World Rally Championship: the feeder series to the very top class.

By winning the rookie prize, Max also qualifies for the shoot-out competition in December this year. Selected drivers who weren’t able to register for the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy but were running on DMACK tyres, together with the top rookie and another wild card, will go head-to-head in a driving competition at M-Sport in England. The winner will get a rally in a Fiesta R5 next season.

“First of all, I’d like to say congratulations to Sander Parn and James Morgan who have won the top prize this year,” commented Max. “They have performed brilliantly all year and they completely deserve this; it was fun to fight with them on this rally. From my point of view, I’m happy with what we have done and of course I’m particularly pleased to have clinched the rookie prize. Given our level of experience, it was a good achievement. But even more important are the lessons I learned this year. It’s been a fantastic experience, which is sure to be really useful for the future. And now of course I am looking forward to the shoot-out, which will be a great opportunity and a lot of fun.”

Max took a little while to settle into the first day of gravel action in Spain on Friday morning, but was then able to set some impressive times in the afternoon. He swiftly adapted himself to the demands of asphalt over the weekend, but lost a bit of time on Saturday’s long stage due to a misunderstanding about timing, when he thought he had a more comfortable margin than he actually did over his nearest competitor. He was immediately back on the pace after realising the mistake, and carried it through to a strong finish on Sunday.

“Certainly this was the most comfortable I have ever felt in the car on asphalt,” added Max. “So we have a good basis to move forward from now.”

One of the most famous people watching Max in action on the event was his father, 1981 World Rally Champion Ari Vatanen.

“It’s always very hard to speak about your own children,” pointed out Ari. “But I think Max has done a good job this year. He’s on the right road, and if you want to be a rally driver, that always helps…”

Max will now focus his efforts on the driving competition coming up at M-Sport in December, with the firm goal to come away with a Fiesta R5 prize drive.

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