Clark seizes Ford Fiesta title in Rally Deutschland

20.08.2007: Clark seizes Ford Fiesta title in Rally Deutschland

PHOTOS on automobilsport.com under wrc-rallyes--87.html

Brits Barry Clark (25) and co-driver Scott Martin (25) stormed to victory on ADAC Rallye Deutschland, securing the 2007 Fiesta SportingTrophy International (FSTi) championship title in the process.

The Stobart Motorsport crew needed eight points in order to take the crown, but continued in their dominance of the championship, once again scoring the maximum points haul. This means that they have won all five 2007 events in the one-make championship in Norway, Portugal, Sardinia, Finland and, now, in Germany.

Large crowds packed the centre of Trier on Thursday night as Germany's oldest city launched the tenth round of the FIA World Rally Championship at the Roman gate of Porta Nigra, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The action began in earnest on Friday morning as competitors left the city for the first of two loops of stages in the vineyards lining the Mosel river.

Clark began the rally by setting his first of 14 fastest stage times, 6.5 seconds faster than second-placed Vytautas Baranauskas (23) and co-driver Gediminas Celiešius (35).

The Lithuanian crew’s fifth rally of the season started badly when they caught the car ahead of them on the second stage. A lapse in concentration whilst following in the car’s tracks found them off the road, costing the crew over eleven minutes to the leader.

Given the bright and sunny conditions earlier in the day, all Fiestas were using dry weather tyres, so the rain on Stage 3 covered the asphalt with treacherous and slippery mud; but the Fiesta competitors kept their cars on the road, with Baranauskas snatching the fastest stage time by 2 seconds to Clark.

Following a return to the Service Park at midday, Clark made a small mistake in Stage 5 and lost around five seconds as he struggled to negotiate a tight hairpin. In the meantime, Baranauskas was on an impressive run, finishing the 23 kilometre stage 16 seconds faster than Clark. Despite showing his obvious pace, the Lithuanian’s charge was brought to a halt on the final stage of the day when he hit a concrete block and damaged his wheels, forcing him to retire to the Service Park and collect a ten-minute penalty.

Saturday brought warm sunshine, as well as some of the most fearsome of stages on the WRC calendar, including the 30-kilometre Panzerplatte stage on the Baumholder military ranges. Regrettably, Baranauskas failed to reach this most daunting of stages, having hit a kerb on the first stage of the day. He was unable to drive the car and returned to the Service Park, adding a 40-minute penalty to his stage times.

Clark had a near miss on the first of two passages through Panzerplatte, when he took a jump too fast, landing the car on its nose, but, fortunately, no damage was done. Saturday afternoon saw a clear run for the leader, even taking the fastest stage time in the N3 class by 14 seconds on the second run of Panzerplatte.

Sunday’s torrential rain and thunderstorms stayed away until the last cars were on the podium and the final leg’s 64 kilometres of special stages passed for Clark and Baranauskas without incident. Malcolm Wilson, BP-Ford World Rally Team boss and the man behind the Fiesta SportingTrophy concept, was waiting at the finish line to congratulate the Stobart crew for their strong performance and dominance of the championship.

The FSTi championship will continue in Spain for the Rallye Catalunya-Costa Daurada (5-7 October).

 

Barry Clark said:

"Wrapping up the FSTi title at this early stage in the season is fantastic. Both Scott [Martin] and I were pretty relaxed going into this event, but I really wanted to push for the win in order to extend the record for the number of consecutive victories in the championship.

But I haven’t done it on my own and, as always, it’s been good to have someone with Scott’s experience and abilities as a co-driver sitting beside me for the season. The David Greer Motorsport team has done a great job in preparing and maintaining the car and I’ll be pushing for the win for them again in Catalunya."

Mitja Prezelj (27) and Matej Çar (27) undertook their first WRC event for the Ford Racing Slovenija team in a Fiesta ST, finishing in a respectable 64th position overall on their first outing.

Following a trouble-free day on Friday, they bent a wheel on the following day, then received two punctures on stages 9 and 10 respectively, costing them over five minutes. A further puncture occurred on the final stage of the rally, but they kept pushing and were relieved to reach the finish line in one piece on their first venture into the WRC. 

 

Mitja Prezelj said:

"We were just not fast enough in the beginning, but once we had got the feel of the stages, I started to push a bit harder. We were really pushing on some stages and it felt good; it was just so much fun! Matej [Çar] and I were so happy to reach the end of each day without having to SupeRally – this was a real achievement for us on our first event. Many thanks to our team, who did a great job and were so supportive of us on our first WRC event."

The Ford Rallye Sport Turkey team of Adil Kucuksari (27) and Can Erkal (24) were not eligible to score points in FSTi, but brought the Castrol-backed Fiesta home to 75th place overall in the WRC standings. Kucuksari, more used to driving a 2000-spec Ford Focus WRC car, fell victim to the tough stages in Rallye Deutschland when he hit a kerb and rolled the car on Stage 6.

His i-cars team worked tirelessly until the early hours of Saturday to repair the car and managed to get it back into the rally with seconds to spare for the following leg. Two punctures on the last stage on Saturday again meant retirement for the Turkish crew, but the pair were pleased to reach the finish on Sunday with no further problems.

 

Adil Kucuksari said:

"This rally was very difficult for me. The GpN Fiesta ST is very different to driving a Ford Focus and it has been a steep learning curve for me to adjust my driving style.

But I have learned a lot from this rally and I hope to have more time learning in the Fiesta so that I can be competitive next year."

 

Championship standings after round 5 of 7

1 B CLARK GBR 10 10 10 10 10 50

2 V BARANAUSKAS LIT DNF 6 4 8 8 26

3 E VERTUNOV RUS 8 5 8 - - 21

4 S HUGHES GBR 5 8 6 - - 19

5 G BARBATI ITA - 4 5 - - 9

6 S BIELTVEDT NOR 6 - - - - 6

7 M MONTEIRO POR - 3 - - - 3

*6 of 7 scores to count

 

- Kate Rhodes-

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20.08.2007 / MaP

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