Stephan Barker:  Mid-term report with 2010 FST International Shootout winner

Stephan Barker: Mid-term report with 2010 FST International Shootout winner

27.10.2011: November seems like such a long time ago now! But it was back in November last year that I contested the 2010 Fiesta SportTrophy (FST) Shootout, a contest for the most

November seems like such a long time ago now! But it was back in November last year that I contested the 2010 Fiesta SportTrophy (FST) Shootout, a contest for the most impressive competitors from each national FST championship to pit their physical fitness, mental capabilities, media savvy and of course driving ability against one another in an attempt to win a year’s placement with the team behind Ford’s assault on the WRC, M-Sport Ltd. After a tough battle with the likes of Sweden’s Calle Ward, Finland’s Jussi Kumpumäki and the 2010 FST UK champion, Elfyn Evans, I came out on top and began what has been the most incredible past six months.

As the Ford Fiesta RS WRC put in a dominating performance at the WRC season opener in Sweden, I began my journey to the UK. A mere 26 hour flight later, I checked into my on-site flat right next to the workshop – no excuses for being late to work! Looking back over the names who have called this flat home – Kris Meeke, Craig Breen, Adam Gould, Mattias Boon and Viktor Henriksson to name but a few – I hope it brings me as much good fortune!

My first official day’s work at M-Sport was a challenging one as an exciting project presented itself and I became part of the team charged with constructing, from scratch, 24 Ford Fiesta R2s for use in the inaugural season of the FIA WRC Academy.

As part of my new role, I was also given the responsibility of shaking down each and every car prior to their first event. What is more, I helped put the Academy drivers through their paces as I helped introduce each graduand to the Fiesta R2 when they attended an M-Sport training day in Cumbria prior to the 2011 Vodafone Rally de Portugal.

Little did I know at the time, it would not just be the WRC Academy cars and drivers that were bound for Portugal this year. Past shootout winners have all been given the opportunity to attend select rounds of the WRC, and for me, this experience began in Portugal where I travelled as a part of the Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team hospitality.

As part of my duties, I was charged with escorting a group of VIPs around the stages. My knowledge of rallying, both historically and technically, also saw me become a lead guide around the Ford service area - leading a number of tours for a host of important guests. Further to this, having let slip that I used to work in a graphics company, I was given the task of wrapping a number of parts for some of the WRC customer Fiestas – it is such a good feeling to see something on TV that you have helped to build!

As the year progressed, I gained more responsibilities back in the workshop; working with a team of mechanics to build a WRC competition Fiesta in just two weeks. In addition to this, I was also charged with the responsibility of wrapping the Monte Carlo winning Ford Fiesta S2000, the very same S2000 I test drove as part of my Shootout win back in November, for a young driver called Alastair Fisher for use in the 2011 Donegal International Rally.

Perhaps one of the best experiences of my time at M-Sport however has been my role in the development of one of M-Sport’s most exciting new projects - the Ford Fiesta MS1 - an affordable competition car eligible for R1 competition and conversion to R2.

This project saw me adapt an important role both in the workshop and on test as I completed all of the test mileage for the new model which builds upon Ford’s ‘Ladder of Opportunity’ and aims to make rallying a much more accessible sport. The MS1 is probably closest to the Fiesta ST in character and we are working hard to try and make it just as successful.

Of course it is not all work, work, work. My placement at M-Sport has seen me enjoy a number of little perks including the rare chance to work on a number of world famous rally cars. To name but two, I was privileged to help restore Carlos Sainz’s 2002 Monte Carlo Ford Focus WRC as well as Ken Block’s Focus which he used at the 2011 DIRT 3 launch at Battersea Power Station in London. There really is never a dull day at M-Sport. While the majority of the time I’m based at Dovenby Hall, you don’t know where you could be one day to the next.

I’ve made so many good friends over the past few months. Made a lot of contacts, had good times, and socialised with rally stars all over the world. In particular my involvement in the WRC Academy has seen me become good friends with some of the most promising young drivers the rally world has to offer.

I’ve recently just returned from a 3-week break in New Zealand and now that I’m back, I’m raring to get going again. With only 4 months remaining at M-Sport, I’m keen to make the most of my time. With the first half of this rewarding year already over, I am already looking towards next season and having played an important role behind the scenes of the WRC Academy, I am keen to get a taste of the action in the future.

Currently working on sponsorship for 2012, I will be working hard over the next few months raising my profile as well as launching my social media sites which will provide an insight into the world of rallying from the thick of the action.

Anna Rudd, M-Sport - also photo


27.10.2011 / MaP

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