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Clark blitzes opening Fiesta Trophy round in Norway

18.02.2007: Clark blitzes opening Fiesta Trophy round in Norway

Barry Clark (24), from Aberdeen UK, has won the first round of the Fiesta SportingTrophy International (FSTi) 2007, the inaugural Rally Norway. Clark and co-driver Scott Martin were victors in the N3 class, seventh in GpN and an impressive 29th in the overall classification.

This popular series attracts young drivers from all over Europe, aspiring to progress to the World Rally Championship ranks, and provides them with a cost effective solution to gain valuable experience at the top of the sport. Competition takes place over three tough days using identical Ford Fiesta ST rally cars.

The first group of stages around the town of Hamar saw immediate action for the FSTi crews. Pre-event favourite, local Norwegian driver Sveinung Bieltvedt (22), was the first to hit trouble, breaking a driveshaft on SS2 and losing over six minutes to his rivals as he managed to deliver the one-wheel-drive car back to service at the Hamar Olympic Stadium service area; in eagerness for his team to transform the vehicle back to full speed.

Clark started well and scored the first of his fastest stage times on SS2, building a lead he would keep for the duration of the event. In trouble on day one was Lithuanian driver, Vytautas Baranauskas (23), who rolled his car on SS4 as a result of a mistake in his pace notes. The team worked hard, late into the night to repair the car, but the damage was too severe and Baranauskas was forced to retire from his first FSTi event before the second day.

For Simon Hughes (23), from North Wales, the first day would also see trouble as he hit a rut and slid off the road, striking a rock concealed in a snow bank on SS5. The Fiesta ST was recovered with the help of the enthusiastic Norwegian spectators and he was able to drive back to service, where Hughes’ team worked throughout the night to repair it for the re-start the following morning.

On day two, overnight snowfall added to the difficult driving conditions. Evgeniy Vertunov (23), from Moscow, experienced thick fog and severely reduced visibility on SS11, a stage where Clark also lost over one minute when his wipers froze to the windscreen and he was forced to drive with almost no visibility.

The excitement of Leg 1 was not repeated on Leg 3 as the FSTi contenders adapted to the difficult conditions and again set some excellent times, to make a clean sweep of stage wins in the N3 class. Vertunov continued his impressive, consistent drive to finish second behind the hard charging Clark. Bieltvedt, with the problems of day one behind him, took fastest FSTi time on three of the last day’s four stages to clinch the final FSTi podium position.

After 335km of frozen special stages, the competitive little Ford Fiesta ST took the top seven places in class and demonstrated impressive reliability, with eight of the nine Fiesta ST drivers finishing the event.

The championship now moves to the gravel stages of the Rally de Portugal in six weeks, where competitors will face a new challenge on the tough, loose speed tests.

Barry Clark said:

"The stages were a lot rougher than I thought they’d be, but the car coped well. It’s been three years since I’ve driven a snow rally, but it was great fun and I had some good battles with Simon [Hughes] and Sveinung [Bieltvedt]. Scott and I are really looking forward to Portugal now that we’re leading the championship."

Evgeniy Vertunov said:

"We had no problems with the Fiesta throughout the rally, but I cannot say the same for my driving! We had fun, but I am looking forward to a better performance on gravel in Portugal."

Sveinung Bieltvedt said:

"Everything that could go wrong did go wrong on the first day. But we weren’t going to give up! Saturday and Sunday were brilliant and we scored a few N3 class wins. If only Friday had been like that, I am sure we would have been challenging Barry [Clark] for the lead. It was great to start the season on stages that were filled with Norwegian fans – they were so supportive and it made our rally so much fun!"

Simon Hughes said:

"We were going really well and having a great fight with Barry [Clark] on the first day, so I’m really disappointed about the accident, as we were on good form until then. The team did incredibly well to get the car on the road for Saturday morning, so it could have been worse. Now I’m just looking forward to the next rally in Portugal where I hope to continue the pace that I showed in the first few stages of Rally Norway."

Vytautas Baranauskas said:

"I am very disappointed not to finish my first rally in the Fiesta SportingTrophy, but it has made me even more determined to do well in the next round in Portugal. My team worked really hard on the car so that I could re-start the rally on Saturday, but there was just too much damage and we were forced to retire. We have a month until the next event, so that leaves plenty of time to fix the car and prepare myself for another opportunity at earning crucial championship points."

Kate Rhodes, Fiesta SportingTrophy International Co-ordinator said:

"Rally Norway was an excellent start to the season and the Fiesta ST proved it has pace and reliability against its rivals by consistently filling the top stage times in its class. It was great to see all the drivers setting some really good stage times, but Barry’s performance was excellent.

To finish seventh in GpN and 29th overall is a great achievement in a 2WD car in these conditions and I look forward to seeing how his rivals will react to the change of conditions for the next FSTi round, the Rally de Portugal in March."

 

Championship Standings after Round 1, Rally Norway

1 Barry Clark (GBR) / Scott Martin (GBR) 10 
2 Evgeniy Vertunov (RUS) / Georgiy Troshkin (RUS) 8
3 Sveinung Bieltvedt (NOR) / Lars Brænna (NOR) 6
4 Simon Hughes (GBR) / Claire Mole (GBR) 5 5
5 Vytautas Baranauskas (LIT) / Edvinas Pagirskas (LIT)

- Kate Rhodes -

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18.02.2007 / MaP

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