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Flying Scotsman scorches the stages at Neste Oil Finland Rally

Flying Scotsman scorches the stages at Neste Oil Finland Rally

19.08.2006: Flying Scotsman scorches the stages at Neste Oil Finland Rally

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

Scot Barry Clark continued to extend his lead in the Fiesta SportingTrophy International (FSTi) on day two of Neste Oil Rally Finland. Clark and co-driver Scott Martin completed the 145 km without any dramas, finishing the day having been fastest on four of the eight stages with a lead of almost 3 minutes.

TRT La Scuderia supported Alessandro Bettega maintained his second place throughout but slowed his pace dramatically to ensure that he finishes this very tough and specialised event. The points for second place would mean that he will become the first person to win the Fiesta SportingTrophy International and the prize of a supported drive in the FIA Junior World Rally Championship in 2007.

Overnight Evgeny Vertunov was in third place but at the end of the leg the Stewardís excluded him from the event under a safety regulation when his co-driver was found to not be wearing the correct fireproof under clothing. The Russian was visibly upset when he left the service park to begin the trip home.

Gilles Schammel benefited from Vertunovís exclusion and regained third place as a result. The man from Luxembourg was starting to dream of a podium position in Finland when a driveshaft broke just as he left service. He will return tomorrow although with SupeRally penalties.

After their problems on Friday, FSTi visitor Joni Arpiainen and series regular Kalle Keskinen both progressed through the field to finish the day third and fourth respectively. When Arpiainen got a puncture only 500 metres into stage 14, Ouninpohja Lšnsi, he elected to drive on for the remaining 14 km on the rim and yet only dropped 1 minute 30 seconds to the others. Keskinen had a trouble free day conducting only routine part replacements and spanner checks at service to finish the leg in fourth position.

On her first visit to this tricky event Kiwi Emma Gilmour was fastest Fiesta ST on two of the four Ouninpohja tests and second and third quickest on the other two - beating both Finns on this loop of their world famous roller coaster stages. She revelled in the fast sweeping nature of these roads and was constantly catching slower cars in front of her in the stages. After this impressive performance luck dealt a cruel blow on Saturdayís last stage when her engine lost all oil pressure, possibly due to an earlier heavy landing, leaving her and co driver Claire Mole stranded in the stage. An assessment on whether she can restart under SupeRally regulations will be taken when the car returns to the service park.

Frenchman Mathieu Biasionís dreadful luck over the last two weeks continued on the second leg. Running way down the order due to his SupeRally penalties he started well with a fastest time on the morningís early stage but over shot a junction on stage 11 and collided with a parked car. This caused considerable damage to the driverís side of the Fiesta ST. The Trophy is hotly contested on the stages yet when Biasionís car needed intensive repair at the first service, technicians from three other teams lent a hand to ensure that he left with his car working and on time.



Sunday sees the final leg of Neste Oil Rally Finland with 60 km of competitive distance over four stages. This distance must be completed without any service break and with Clark hoping for his first win in the series and Bettega hoping to clinch the Trophy nerves will be jangling until the cars return to the Ceremonial Finish at 15:10 local time.

Barry Clark #53 Iíve thoroughly enjoyed today. Our position is difficult as we have to keep it in the middle of the road and not make any mistakes. I have a healthy lead in the FSTi but need to keep pushing in the Rookie JWRC for more points so I have to keep the speed up whilst being careful.

Alessandro Bettega #97 Iím driving really slowly, really steady but the day is perfect. I need to take it easy for the Trophy and I only need to clip a rock like Biasion yesterday and Iím in SupeRally, 5 minutes per stage and I will have thrown it away. It is hard to drive slowly. I need to try and keep concentrating and drive in the middle of the road. We amended our notes on the stages we have to repeat to make sure we avoid any hazards. Iím getting bored now. I am not enjoying driving slowly and seeing the stage times depresses me. I hope we can win the Trophy here as I want to go to Wales Rally GB and then I can go crazy.

Kalle Keskinen #98 On the first stage I was driving outside the road all of the time. On the run first Ouininpohja I was fastest but I wanted to go 20 seconds faster on the next run round but I ended up slower. There was a vibration from the car at service so we changed the driveshafts as a precaution and it was better.

Joni Arpiainen #99 I like it, the stages are really good. It is so much better than yesterday that I can drive the car really lightly and let things flow. On the first Ouininpohja I was quite nervous, but now it is OK. I jumped 25 metres on the last one and the Fiesta lands really well. I got a puncture 500 metres into stage 14. It was a huge big sharp rock and I couldnít avoid it. We drove for the rest of the stage and only lost a minute and a half. A Fiesta can still jump when it only has air in three tyres.

Mathieu Biasion #100 In the second stage this morning I came over a crest and Cedric called a right hand corner but the route went left. There was a car parked in the road and I hit it. All the teamís mechanics did a good job and the car goes well now. Iím enjoying this beautiful rally, the stages are great. I donít care anymore we just want to go fast.

Gilles Schammel #101 It has been better than yesterday. The stages are not just so fast but getting the line right is very difficult. The driveshaft broke when they were just leaving service, I thought the tiramisu was very good for lunch and I wanted to come back for more!"

Emma Gilmour #104 This has been good fun. I am catching the car in front. On each of the last two stages we had to pass him and it is costing us some time. Itís strange that you worry about the crests on the stages and forget about the speed, then all of a sudden you see how fast you are travelling. Itís good to see that on the most famous stage in the world, Ouininpohja I can set a fastest time. I have beaten the Finns on every stage on that loop. They wonít be speaking to me! The two fastest stage times mean a lot. Claire shouted Ďcaution crestí in the last one and I couldnít see why I had to be careful and kept powering on. The road then just disappeared and we flew for ages with a big bang when we landed.


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

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19.08.2006 / MaP

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