Victor reigns victorious on debut WRC appearance

Victor reigns victorious on debut WRC appearance

05.12.2007: Victor reigns victorious on debut WRC appearance

Wild winds and heavy rain welcomed Fiesta SportingTrophy International (FSTi) competitors to Wales Rally GB this weekend, where Swede Victor Henriksson (19) became the third winner in the 2007 championship. In a rally of attrition, Henriksson and English co-driver Mark Walker kept a consistently high pace to finish ahead of their more experienced rivals.

Rally Catalunya winners' Vytautas Baranauskas (23) and Gediminas Celiešius consistently swapped fastest stage times with the Swedish driver but only managed to attain second place following an accident on Leg 1.

Henriksson, winner of the 2006 FST International Shootout, is originally from Stockholm but currently resides in Cockermouth in the UK. He competed against 23 top Fiesta drivers in the Shootout last December and earned himself a placement working for the BP-Ford World Rally Team. Instead of working on Rally GB as part of his usual duties, Henriksson secured a deal to compete on his first WRC event with the assistance of sponsors Allfab and Pole Position Indoor Karting.

An accident on SS1, Port Talbot 1, meant the stage was cancelled for Fiesta competitors. Henriksson proved to be the initial pacesetter for SS2, Resolfen 1, and was fastest Fiesta to Baranauskas by 36 seconds over 25 kilometres and fastest in class N3. Giovanni Caposiena (29) and co-driver Barbara Perugini's first WRC outing was initially short-lived, after slipping off the road on SS2 and, despite no serious damage to the car, were unable to get back on the road and were thus forced into retirement for the day losing 25 minutes in time penalties.

The battle for the lead was shaping up by SS3, Rheola 1, when Baranauskas took 12 seconds out of Henrksson over 28 kilometres after the Swede picked up a puncture with ten kilometres still to run. Ford Rallye Sport Turkey drivers Emre Yurdakul (24) and Burcu Cetinkaya (26) also suffered with punctures, and the rally claimed a retirement in James Everard (22) and co-driver Mark Ammonds who were forced to stop with a broken suspension component, losing 20 minutes in penalties under 'SuperRally' regulations.

Henriksson led Baranauksas by 24 seconds as they arrived at midday service and, having not reached SS4 Port Talbot 2 due to heavy traffic, the leader was allocated a notional time by the stewards which maintained his lead to the end of the day. Baranauskas misjudged a hairpin on SS5, Resolfen 2, losing eight minutes and damaging his driveshaft, forcing him to stop on SS6 and incur a ten minute penalty. Yurdakul also broke a driveshaft on SS5, losing 10 minutes under SupeRally regulations.

Despite a brighter start to Leg 2, the stormy weather didn't stay away for long. Henriksson took the first N3 class win of the day on the Epynt military ranges north of Swansea by nine seconds over Baranauskas, but lost his brakes and overshot at a hairpin on SS9, Halfway 1. Teetering on the edge of a cliff, the crew relied on the help of a group of spectators to push the car back into the stage but lost over seven minutes in the process. Henriksson was able to return the car to the midday service halt in Swansea but fell to fourth place in the N3 standings.

The Ford Rallye Sport Turkey crew of Burcu Cetinkaya (26) and Belgian Frederic Miclotte, who were competing in Wales in order to gain experience for their 2008 FSTi campaign, experienced power steering problems, but her i-Cars team worked diligently during the 30 minute service to ensure her return to the stages for the afternoon. Brit James Everard (22) and co-driver Mark Ammonds had concerns about their driveshaft for morning loop of stages, but managed to attain second position in FSTi on SS9.

Henriksson was fastest in class N3 on SS10 and SS11 on Saturday afternoon, despite picking up a rear puncture on SS11. SS12 was cancelled due to an earlier accident and all FSTi competitors were awarded notional times by the stewards.

The Super Special in Cardiff Millennium Stadium in front of over 26,000 spectators was the closing stage of a long day, again with Henriksson as fastest FSTi driver, finishing the Leg over 12 minutes ahead of second-placed Baranauskas by the time the cars pulled into the final service of the day shortly before midnight. Yurdakul and co-driver Can Erkal's car suffered a fuel leak on SS11 and and eventually ran out of fuel two km from the end of the stage, losing over 15 minutes in time penalties under 'SuperRally' regulations.

Darkness greeted competitors for an early start on Sunday morning, where Henriksson took 23 seconds out of Baranauskas over 29 kilometres in the treacherously slippery SS14 Brechfa 1, while Baranauskas seized 11 seconds back from the leader over the same distance on the rough and rutted SS15 Trawscoed 1.

Caposiena slipped wide on SS14 and was unable to recover the car back onto the stage. For the final loop of two stages, a repeat of the morning's route, Baranauskas excelled in the conditions but Henriksson found the road conditions extremely tricky with a healthy lead to protect.

Taking the final podium position for FSTi was Everard, who has particpated in the FST UK championship this year. Competing in his first WRC event this was a fitting end to the season for this young charger who drove a strong rally demonstrating maturity and enthusiasm under treacherous conditions.

The season will come to a close on 3 and 4 December with the FST International Shootout, where Henriksson will hand over the mantle to his Shootout successor. The first and second-placed drivers plus one 'wildcard' from each of the 12 FST championships around the world will compete against each other in a series of challenges including a physical assessment held in M-Sport's state-of-the-art workshop, a press conference judged by international media delegates, a pyschological examination and, naturally, competitive stage miles in M-Sport's Greystoke Forest.

The top-five scoring competitors will have a one-to-one interview with Managing Director Malcolm Wilson, who will make the final selection on which driver will recieve the M-Sport work placement, which will include a variety of tasks from testing and development responsibilities, to assisting the BP-Ford WRT on WRC events and building WRC cars in the workshop.

For Wales Rally GB, the 'Rally Travel' prize of a trip for two to a WRC event next year provided an extra incentive for FSTi drivers to push for the win, a bonus that Henriksson was delighted to recieve. Baranauksas' Lithuanian team received a special bonus prize on this event thanks to Wales Rally GB sponsor partners, Karcher GB who presented a Karcher K2 High Pressure Washer for the 'Karcher Best Presented Car' Award.

Welshman Simon Hughes (23) has been selected as the FSTi wildcard and will join 2007 FSTi champion Barry Clark (25) and runner up Baranauskas to compete for the Shootout honours.

Clark, Baranauskas and third-placed Evgeniy Vertunov (23) joined Malcolm Wilson for dinner on Friday evening in recognition of their acheivements this year.

Victor Henriksson, 2006 FST International Shootout winner said:

"My plan was to drive at 75% and not to push too hard, as I knew that conditions would be tough and that it was better to push a little on the fast straights, but to be cautious, avoid stones and stay in the middle of the road as much as possible. It is tempting to go flat out, but sometimes you just have to be a bit more sensible and think carefully about your approach. There was a point when I thought I'd knocked a wheel off and, despite three punctures and the loss of my brakes, I'm really happy with the result on my first WRC.

"My experience of working with the BP-Ford World Rally Team this year gave me a good idea of what to expect from competing in the WRC, so there were no shocks to the system, I suppose like many newcomers might experience. To have finished this amazing year with a victory on my WRC debut is the perfect end to a season that money just couldn't buy."

James Everard said:

"The afternoon loop on the final Leg was horrendously rough the second time through and we nearly lost it on Stage 16. We came down to a fast left and had a massive moment resulting in a real big tank slapper – it got the blood pumping! The little Fiesta took a real hammering on the big ruts, but it's an absolutely incredible car; it's genuinely very strong. I've never come across road conditions as bad as that; it was hard work, but we really enjoyed it."

Emre Yurdakul said:

"This rally was very long and difficult. It was good for the team and I to gain more experience. We were unlucky during the rally and had some small problems, but I am happy that I completed so many kilometres. I hope next year we will be successful in the championship."

 

Championship standings after round 7 of 7:

1 B CLARK GBR 10 10 10 10 10 8 - 58

2 V BARANAUSKAS LIT DNF 6 4 8 8 10 8 36

3 E VERTUNOV RUS 8 5 8 - - - - 21

4 S HUGHES GBR 5 8 6 - - - - 19

5 V HENRIKSSON SWE - - - - - - 10 10

6 G BARBATI ITA - 4 5 - - - - 9

7= S BIELTVEDT NOR 6 - - - - - - 6

7= J M SANTANA SPA - - - - - 6 - 6

7= J EVERARD GBR - - - - - - 6 6

10 M MONTEIRO POR - 3 - - - - - 3

11 G CAPOSIENA ITA - - - - - - DNF 0

*6 of 7 scores to count

 

Kate Rhodes,  www.fiestasportingtrophy.com

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/fiesta-sporting-trophy-fsti-wales-rally-gb-victor-henriksson-giovanni-caposiena-james-everard-emre-yurdakul---30776.html

05.12.2007 / MaP

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