FST UK ready for first tarmac test

03.07.2006: FST UK ready for first tarmac test

The Jim Clark Rally will be the first tarmac rally of the exciting VK Vodka Kick supported Fiesta SportingTrophy UK (FST UK) as the championship reaches its half way mark on the roads around Kelso, south east of Edinburgh.

Leading the way is Welshman Kevin Davies who has yet to win an event but whose championship lead comes from a consistent second place and two thirds. Up until now all the events have been on gravel and Davies only has very limited rally experience on tarmac.

"Iíve never competed in the Jim Clark before, Iíve only been there as service crew," says the Pencader-based driver. "Weíre going to start the rally and see what happens; the aim is just to get to the end. My co-driver Emyr Jones has experience of tarmac rallies but Iíve only done a couple of local events so itís all new to me."

Two points behind Davies in the standings is George Thomas who failed to finish the Malcolm Wilson season opener, but won on the Pirelli and came second in the Severn Valley. A good result in Scotland could give him the lead. "Iíve never done the Jim Clark before and Iíve been told itís very fast," says Thomas. "Iím going to be putting a lot of time in with my co-driver Graham Hopewell learning the notes and I think the key will be being precise and neat."

Although he has only contested a single tarmac rally previously, the Matador Welsh Rally this April, Thomas won his class and came sixth overall and topped that up by driving the course car in the recent Rally of the Midlands. "I donít know if there are any tarmac specialists in the championship but I went well in my first tarmac rally so Iím looking forward to the Jim Clark. That said, Iím not sure exactly what to expect."

Thanks to his win last time out, Chris Moore vaulted to third in the standings and is eager to maintain his championship momentum. "I have done the Jim Clark on three previous occasions," he says. "The first two times we failed to finish but the last time we were leading our section before slipping to third at the end of the rally."

Moore recently had his first tarmac test in his Fiesta ST, something which was combined with a charity event taking out visually impaired people for passenger rides. The event achieved its goal of raising £20,000 for Guide Dogs for the Blind, but itís a goal of a very different sort that Moore has for the Jim Clark.

"After winning the last round on the Severn Valley Rally we are all fired up to go and win this event too," he says. Winning Fiesta ST driver on the Malcolm Wilson Rally Owen Murphy has not scored in his last two outings, something he is very eager to change in Kelso.

Fitting more into the tarmac specialist category is sixth in the standings Dan Taylor. "Itís the first time we have been on tarmac all year so back to what we know. I canít wait," says Taylor who came in tenth overall and first of the two wheel drive cars last year. The car he drove on the Jim Clark in 2005 was a self-built Vauxhall Corsa which powered the rear rather than front wheels. The production-based front wheel drive Fiesta ST will be a very different driving style but Taylor is fired-up for the challenge.

"Weíve swapped the car to a tarmac setup including wheels and tyres and, budget permitting, I hope to do some testing before we leave for Kelso as Iíve never driven on Tarmac in a front wheel drive and I suspect I have a lot to learn," he said in the build-up to the event. "Weíre slowly getting to grips with the car on gravel, halving the time behind the winner on every rally so far, but hoping for better things on the Jim Clark. In the dry this event is one of the greats and one of my favorites. Itís well organized and the stages are superb."

Elsewhere, hoping to be fastest of the, as he calls them, Ďold fartsí, Richard Moore is relishing the new challenge of tarmac especially as he has no time or money for testing before the event. "The first stage should be interesting," he says.

With more than a vested interest in how good the Ford Fiestas fare is Richard Parry-Jones whose day job is Group Vice President and Chief Technical Officer for the Ford Motor Company. "Iím looking forward to the first tarmac event of the championship, although the first time I will ever have driven the car on Tarmac will be when I leave the start control!" he says. "It will also be my first time rallying in that part of the world, so all in all a 'learning opportunity' as they say."

The VK Vodka Kick sponsored series includes the Castrol Hard Charger Award on offer to competitors on each round, and £120 of oil & lubricants goes to the person taking the most stage wins. The lower numbered runners also benefit from their improvements on each event, and a day of personal driving tuition is on offer from Competition Car Insurance for the Most Improved Over the Year. And as well as the road car for the overall winner at year end, sponsor Steve Perez from VK Vodka Kick will offer his own Focus WRC car for a prize winner on a national event too!

The Fiesta SportingTrophy UK is a new championship for 2006 which features approaching thirty identical 2.0 L Ford Fiesta STs transformed into GpN rally cars by kits from M-Sport. Competitors were last out in action on the Severn Valley Clubman Rally on June 3rd where glorious sunshine shone down on some of the stages used in Britainís round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Wales Rally GB.

Close stage and overall times have characterised each event and with the Jim Clark being the first sealed surface event of the season the expectation is for more of the same. Just five points separates the top three drivers in the championship points table, although the series has the added factor that only the best six results from the eight round championship count.


- Inside Line -

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03.07.2006 / MaP

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