Elfyn Evans may have wrapped up the Fiesta SportTrophy (FST) championship in Northern Ireland last month, but this week’s season finale at the Trackrod International Rally remains set to be one of the most exciting rounds to date with the final two podium positions in the FST still up for grabs and the battle for the Fiesta SportChallenge (FSC) championship separated by just four points.
Claiming the FST UK crown and currently laying joint first in the British Rally Championship’s (BRC) overall standings, 2012 has been a sensational year for Evans who competes in the Ford Fiesta R2. However, also leading the FIA WRC Academy, the Welshman has elected not to fight for the BRC title and will instead concentrate on preparing for the fifth round of the WRC Academy at the 2012 Rallye de France Alsace.
With Evans out of the running, victory on the season climax will be wide open with a number of drivers capable of securing the season’s final win. Based in Yorkshire’s Dalby Forest, the rally kick starts with a new-for-2012 night stage on Friday evening followed by a further six stages for the FST and three for the FSC on Saturday.
Looking to consolidate his second place in the FST championship, Matthew Cathcart will be hoping to impress on the gravel stages this weekend. The Northern Irishman has impressed on the asphalt events this year – so much so that he was awarded a Pirelli Star Driver nomination on his asphalt debut at the Jim Clark International Rally earlier in the year – and will be looking to show the same speed as the championship makes the return to gravel. With a 14 point advantage to Gethin Jones in third, Cathcart will be one to watch as he safeguards his championship position.
Graduating to the Ford Fiesta R2 this weekend, Gethin Jones will be fighting for the runner-up spot in the championship. Usually competing behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta ST, the Welshman has had a creditable season to date – holding a podium position in the less powerful Fiesta for much of the season. Contesting this weekend’s event behind the wheel of the Fiesta R2, Jones will be a contender for the victory as he chases down Cathcart’s second place in the championship standings.
2012 has been one of mixed fortunes for Alex Parpottas. Yet despite a string of bad luck, the Hertfordshire lad has shown his speed and potential on gravel – claiming a podium finish on the Bulldog International Rally back in March. With a potential win propelling Parpottas into fourth place in the overall standings, the 19-year-old will be out to impress this weekend and will be another driver capable of securing victory.
Also graduating to the Ford Fiesta R2 for the final round of the season, Norwegian Steve Røkland will be keen to prove his speed on the British stages. Fresh from claiming the Silver medal in the Norwegian Rally Championship last week, Røkland will be on a high and capable of claiming victory as he progresses from the Ford Fiesta R1 to its R2 counterpart. The 2011 FST International Shootout winner has displayed some fearsome speed in the BRC Junior category this year, and the final round in Yorkshire will allow the 20-year-old to prove his worth at the top end of the series.
Claiming his prize for winning the 2010 FSC, Jonathan Cunningham makes a welcome return to the one-make series this week – this time behind the wheel of an M-Sport prepared Ford Fiesta R2 in the FST. The Irishman’s speed is well known and once he gets back into the rhythm of competitive rallying on the international stage, Cunningham could throw a few surprises into the mix and should not be discounted for a strong result.
Elsewhere in the FSC, the battle of the championship laurels is separated by just four points. Leading the series behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta ST, Liverpudlian Tony Simpson will be looking to fend off a resurgent Adam Taylor who brought himself back into contention on the series’ only ‘double-header’ round in Ulster last month.
With much still to be decided on the final round of both the FST and FSC, the Fiesta series will be home to some of the most close-fought competition on the stages and are set to provide some of the most exciting rallying in the field.
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