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Clark conquers the crests and Bettega gets a bonus - Fiesta SportingTrophy Finland Rally

Clark conquers the crests and Bettega gets a bonus - Fiesta SportingTrophy Finland Rally

20.08.2006: Clark conquers the crests and Bettega gets a bonus - Fiesta SportingTrophy Finland Rally

Fiesta SportingTrophy International, round 5/6
Neste Oil Rally Finland - Sunday August 20

Scot Barry Clark became the fourth different winner out of five rounds in the latest counter of the inaugural Fiesta SportingTrophy International (FSTi). Clark took the lead on stage six on Friday and having set ten fastest stage times out of the twenty one stages in the 351 km route he was never challenged and has moved up to second overall in the series. The Stobart VK supported Fiesta ST only required routine maintenance and checks over the weekend.

TRT La Scuderia supported Alessandro Bettega became the first winner of the Fiesta SportingTrophy International. Once his main rival for the Championship, Mathieu Biasion, hit trouble on Friday, Bettega reduced his pace so as to maintain his position and secure the points he required to win the series and the prize of a supported drive in the FIA Junior World Rally Championship in 2007. On the last leg it did not quite go to plan as on the second stage of the day, Jukojarvi 1, his rear hub sheared and he lost the wheel. He decided not to complete the dayís final two tests and elected to take SupeRally penalties. His times on the first two days meant that once the penalties were applied he dropped one place but still collected the valuable six points he needed for the title.

Finn Joni Arpiainen who joined the FSTi regulars just for this event was delighted with his second place. After the first two forest tests on Friday he was languishing in last position following punctures. He set a fastest time on Friday proving that he was on the pace, but he also drove a tactical rally knowing that avoiding problems would reward him at the finish on Sunday.

Fellow Finn Kalle Keskinen was fastest on the three stages that the Fiesta STs tackled on Sunday after the last stage was stopped following an earlier accident. This made up for his puncture and broken suspension on Friday and the loss of a wheel on the last stage on Saturday. Fourth place represents his best finish to date in the Trophy.

Gilles Schammel, contesting only his second ever gravel event, continued to progress and gain experience on this tricky and specialised rally. On Friday he was generally 1.5 seconds per kilometre off the pace and by the end of the event he had this down to only a second. He is now only a point off third place in the overall standings with one round to go.

On her first visit to this tricky event Kiwi Emma Gilmour was fastest Fiesta ST on three stages in her Castol/Dream Drive Promotions backed car. The last stage on Saturday night saw her hole the sump in the ruts and the resultant oil loss meant that she elected to take SupeRally penalties on Sunday in order to record a finish. However she did prove that on the fast roller coaster tracks she has the pace to beat the best and showed the guys the way to do it during the second loop of stages on Saturday.

Frenchman Mathieu Biasionís dreadful luck over the last two weeks continued right through the weekend. On Friday a collision with a rock removed a wheel, on Saturday a wrong call from his co-driver sent him up an escape road where he collided with a parked car and on the last leg today the front damper collapsed on the Jukojarvi stage. When he had a clean run at a stage he set very competitive times but understandably he was not overjoyed with his first experience of Finland, although he loves the stages here.

Nine of the standard Fiesta ST Gp N rally cars started the Neste Oil Rally of Finland but Lambros Athanassoulas crashed his example heavily on the seventh stage on Friday. The fact that both he and co driver Nikos Mouzakis were uninjured is a testament to the M-Sport designed roll cage and the strength of the car.

Russian Evgeny Vertunov was excluded by the FIA Stewards along with four other crews on Friday night following a technical infringement. He had been lying third overall at the time.

The next and final round of the Fiesta SportingTrophy International takes place over the weekend of 1-3 December in Cardiff for Wales Rally GB. The Trophy may have a winner but the Welsh valleys will bear witness to a battle for the runnerís up place with second to fifth spot currently only separated by five points.

Barry Clark #53 Itís a fantastic result and Iím really happy to have won the Fiestas by such a margin. It just goes to show what I can do in the car. We werenít even pushing that hard, we just stuck to the plan of staying in the middle of the road and avoiding the rocks. Itís been hard to play two championships here. We had a puncture near the end of the first Ouninpohja stage and dropped some time on Saturday. The stages are really great. Theyíre fast and wide with jumps and bumps but youíve got to really watch out for the rocks. Weíre now in second place in the Fiesta points but we canít take the title which is a shame, but it looks good for us in the Rookie standings.

Alessandro Bettega #97 I am delighted, so excited to have won, it is a dream. Itís a pity that I didnít finish all of the stages today. I didnít hit anything but the hub just sheared and the wheel disappeared. It was near the end of the stage and we didnít loose much time but we then had to take SupeRally. I am looking forward to being able to fight for the lead in Wales.

Joni Arpiainen #99 I am happy. It was a tactical and challenging rally. I decided to drive in the middle of the road and avoid the rocks taking it very easy. Iím pleased with my result.

Mathieu Biasion #100 This has been a terrible fortnight for me. Every time I go out I get a problem or something happens. I have so much bad luck. After 4 km in the first stage this morning the suspension broke and I had to keep it steady in the middle of the road as it was crashing up and down.



Gilles Schammel #101
I have gone quicker every day and learnt so much about different lines and things. Iím even beginning to like gravel, seeing as this is only my second event on this surface.

Emma Gilmour #104 I have enjoyed the weekend and hope I have shown everyone the pace that I have. The sump was holed too badly last night for us to go out to the stages today. The guys repaired it enough to get it in to Parc Ferme last night, but I didnít have the heart to start the wee car this morning so we just pushed it into the service bay to get SupeRally and the finish we wanted.


- Andy Stobart-
photos by Luc Depiesse automobilsport.com  copyright ISC Ltd, London 2006

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20.08.2006 / MaP

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