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Fiesta SportingTrophy go to Swansea Bay.

17.07.2006: Fiesta SportingTrophy go to Swansea Bay.

Given the UKís current heat-wave itís appropriate that the VK Vodka Kick backed Fiesta SportingTrophy UK, Britainís most hotly contested single-make rally series, should head to a seaside base for the fifth round of the championship, the Swansea Bay Rally. Although Rally HQ is located within easy reach of Swanseaís picturesque beaches the Swansea Bay is a gravel rally using forestry stages in the Vale of Neath and takes in some of the very same stages which are used by Wales Rally GB, Britainís round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

With four different winners from the four events held so far this season it couldnít be closer in the championship table and as the championship enters its second half the competition is, like the weather, getting hotter all the time. Earlier this month the fourth round of the championship, Scotlandís Jim Clark Rally, saw victory for Colwyn Bayís Simon Hughes, whilst Bromyardís George Thomas displaced Kevin Davies at the top of the driversí points standings.

"Iím looking forward to being back on gravel although Iíve only done the Swansea Bay Rally once before, and that was in my first year of rallying," says Thomas who is co-driven by Graham Hopewell. "Itís good to be leading the points and but for an overshoot on the Jim Clark weíd have an even better points lead."

For Davies and Hughes itís a case of wanting to win in their home nation. Despite having led the championship, Davies has yet to win an event, something he wants to change this coming weekend. "Itís local to me which is good, but Iíve never competed in the event before, although I have driven the same stages for Wales Rally GB and in the Red Dragon Rally," says Carmarthenshire-based Davies who is co-driven by Emyr Jones. "The stages look quite good and theyíre smooth, but dust will be the problem. Weíre second in the championship at the moment so I think weíre going to have a bit of a push in this one, weíll have to see if we finish!"

Hughes did take his seasonís first rally win in Scotland and he is eager to become the first driver in the series to Ďdo the doubleí and take two championship wins. "It was very good for us to then build on our lead in the Jim Clark and control the pace till the end," says Hughes, who is co-driven by Claire Mole. "I hope our newly found good fortune continues for the rest of the season now!"

The current championship standings are such that any of five drivers could leave Swansea Bay with a championship points lead, but the championship has the added twist that the title will be decided at the end of the year on the best six results from the eight events which make up the season.

Driver Kyle Orr from Dromore in County Down is so eager to be part of the FST UK that he will be driving a non-championship eligible Fiesta ST in this event on the day of his 17th birthday in preparation for a full championship campaign next season. "Dadís been on the phone for about twelve hours getting everything sorted with the licence and insurance," says Orr, who will have experienced co-driver John Henderson sat beside him in the event. "Iíve been out in the Fiesta and itís a very good handling car, Iím really looking forward to the rally."

With Britain enjoying dry and hot conditions dust could well be a factor on the event with the FST UK back on gravel after the tarmac of the Jim Clark. As befits the popularity of the championship in only its first season, well over twenty Fiesta STs will be tackling the event, running as part of the Swansea Bay Clubmans Rally. An added complication for competitors is a late re-route of the rally due to a protected species of bird nesting in the Resolven Forest Complex. Fiesta SportingTrophy UK fans seemingly come from all walks of life and any number of species.

After the Swansea Bay Rally the championship will have its second and final tarmac rally of the season, the Mewla Rally based around Builth Wells, Powys on August 27th.  

 

- Stella Boyles, Andy Stobart -

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17.07.2006 / MaP

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