Clark aims for second win against tough opposition in Portugal

23.03.2007: Clark aims for second win against tough opposition in Portugal

British driver Barry Clark (24) is aiming to defend his championship lead on the Vodafone Rally de Portugal next weekend (30 March-1 April). The Aberdeen driver and Carlisle co-driver, Scott Martin (25), blitzed the opening round of the Fiesta SportingTrophy on Rally Norway, a performance that leaves them as strong contenders for the title. However, Clark knows that competition will be tough, with new competitors joining the championship.

The seven round series follows the FIA World Rally Championship calendar and kicked off on the snow stages of Rally Norway in February. Vodafone Rally de Portugal is the second round and will be the competitorsí first outing on gravel stages this year. Crews in the competitive one-make championship will drive identical Ford Fiesta ST GpN cars that offer 160bhp from the 2-litre Duratec engine.

The Rally de Portugal returns to the WRC calendar after a break of five years and is based in the Algarve region for the first time. This area is renowned for its beautiful coastlines and warm sunny weather, making it a hotspot for tourists from all over the world. Spectator numbers are expected to be high and the super special stages and Service Park will be based in the Algarve Stadium, which has a capacity for 20,000 spectators.

Although current championship leader Clark is confident about the event, he thinks that local Portuguese drivers Miguel Monteiro and Miguel Silva will prove quite a challenge on their home territory.

Heading the attack will be the Portuguese brothers Miguel (37) and co-driver Paulo Monteiro (39), who started rallying in 1996 with a Ford RS 2000 on the Rally de Portugal. They have since rallied in Europe in a Ford Ka and have taken victories in a Ford Puma; now they look forward to stepping onto the world stage in the Fiesta ST. Also from the same Porto region comes Miguel Silva (26) and co-driver Carlos Carvalhosa (27), who have participated in national rallies and now this will be their first WRC event.

Another new entry to the championship is Gianni Barbati (26) from Modena, Italy. He and co-driver Fabio Cadore (38) have won successive Fiat championships since 2001 and have now signed up to the TRT team, which led Alessandro Bettega to FSTi championship victory in 2006. Barbati tested his Fiesta ST in preparation for Portugal last week with Bettega on hand to offer advice.

Lithuanians Vytautas Baranauskas (23) and Edvinas Pagirskas (43) enter Rally de Portugal eager for a better run than they had in Norway, when they rolled on the first day and were forced to retire from the rally.

Evgeniy Vertunov (23) and co-driver Georgiy Troshkin (29) from Russia, hope to continue the good form they demonstrated in Norway and are now second in the championship standings.

Brits Simon Hughes (23) and co-driver Claire Mole (38) hope to continue the pace they showed before their accident in Norway and promote themselves up the championship table from fourth.

Barry Clark said:

"Iím looking forward to Portugal, I just canít wait to get back in the car again and hopefully come home with a win for the second time this year. Itís great to start the rally with the points advantage, and this means that we donít have to go flat out for the win. Itís a new rally to most drivers, so Iíll need to tailor my driving to suit the rough gravel stages and approach the event from a tactical perspective. That doesnít mean I wonít be pushing hard, as I know weíre up against some tough competition!"

Gianni Barbati said:

"The Fiesta ST is an easy car to drive, has good reactions and feels safe. I have a lot of experience with front-wheel-drive cars, but, nonetheless, I was astonished with the Fiesta. I still donít know its limits and I must confess that, before the test, I was very worried because I am not familiar with driving on gravel; but the car felt so good that I no longer have any concerns. Alessandroís [Bettega] advice has been invaluable.

Thanks to him, I understand which areas I still need to improve upon and how to approach the gravel stages in Portugal. Weíve also made time comparisons with Alessandro and there is not too much difference. Iím not at his level yet, but I will get there in time."

Kate Rhodes, FSTi Co-ordinator said:

"Barry Clarkís performance in Norway was outstanding and I look forward to seeing how he will fair against the local drivers in Portugal, I certainly think they will give him a run for his money! Itís great to welcome three new competitors to the series and I look forward to seeing the true speed of Vytautas Baranauskas, who was unable to demonstrate his pace on his first outing.

The reliability of the Ford Fiesta ST continues to impress the drivers and the championship is shaping up to be very exciting, attracting drivers from around the world with different backgrounds, experience and skills."

 

Championship Standings after round 1 of 7

Pos Name NOR POR SAR FIN GER SPA GB TOT
1 CLARK GBR 10 10
2 VERTUNOV RUS 8 8
3 BIELTVEDT NOR 6 - 6
4 HUGHES GBR 5 5
5 BARANAUSKAS LIT DNF 0
6 BARBATI ITA - -
7 MONTEIRO POR - -
8 SILVA POR - -

 

- Kate Rhodes -

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23.03.2007 / MaP

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