The 2009 Kick Energy Fiesta SportTrophy will officially kick off next weekend with the first meeting of the season in Cumbria.

The Malcolm Wilson Rally will be the first of seven events over the course of the year with 16 cars entered for the 45 mile long rally through the Cumbrian forests.

2008 saw a close title fight between Elfyn Evans, Max Utting and Meilyr Evans. Evans would eventually take championship glory from Utting, with Meilyr in third. With all three moving on for 2009, it means this years title fight is wide open and as unpredictable as ever.

Among the series contenders is returnee Kris Hall, with the 19-year-old being partnered by experienced navigator Robbie Durant. Hall showed improved pace throughout the whole of 2008 and came a close second overall in the FSTi International Shootout at the end of the season - meaning he starts the season being tipped as the early pace setter.

Stevie Brown returns for a second season in the championship with Martin Forrest navigating. Brown won the Malcolm Wilson rally at the start of last season but had a troubled run through the remainder of the season - meaning he will now hope for an upturn in fortune this season.

Barry Greer and John Lemon, Kyle Orr and Graeme Stuart, Mark Donnelly and Paddy Robinson and Craig Breen all make the trip over the water from Ireland. With all the crews having potential to win the opening round it will make for an interesting cross-country battle. Greer and Orr are both familiar faces to the series and both will want to make their impression on the series from the start.

Donnelly is gearing up for a full assault on both the British and Irish series FST and with an impressive eighth overall finish on the National Rally in Galway the young Irishman cannot be underestimated. Breen is also committing to both the full UK and Irish series as well as having an entry on the opening round of the FSTi he could well be a formidable force for the win.

Matt Edwards had some great results in the 2008 BTRDA series culminating in a third place overall on the Cambrian Stages rally. After pulling together enough funds to build a Fiesta he will be hoping the competitive single make FST series can further his rallying career. However, with no seat time in the car before the opening round his first goal is for a top fiv finish. Edwards will be co-driven by Andy Murphy.

2008 Billy Coleman award winner Ross Forde will take up his prize of a funded drive in the FST UK 2008. The Irishman will be co-driven by Manxman Robb Fagg and will be hoping to get his 2009 season off to the best of starts.

Martin Jones and Kris Killip will start the event entered in their Manx Youth Trust Fiesta ST. Jones was selected from a group of drivers by a panel and will be hoping to justify his selection at the first round.
Luke Francis and Jon Madoc-Jones return to the series for another attack after increasing their speed throughout the whole of 2008. After a season long lay off Rory Hall and Lee Burgess make a welcome return to the series, whilst and Hannah Cessford have recently acquired a Fiesta ST and aim to use their vast rallying experience in other cars to score highly in the FST.

The first round also sees two competitors who will be competing in their first ever gravel stage rally. Harry Hunt and Thomas Watson both come into the series as complete novices. Hunt aims to do as much rallying as possible during the year to get up to speed in the shortest period of time, whilst Watson is an ex-motocross Star who hopes to make a name for himself in the rallying world.

"As the Fiesta SportTrophy enters it's fourth season, again with fantastic support from our long term partner, Steve Perez, we are delighted that once again we have the cream of the best young drivers from the UK and Ireland competing in Fiestas," M-Sport chief Malcolm Wilson said. "With a new crop of drivers to challenge the old guard it looks like another close fought season.

"I will be out myself on the first round of the series to get a good look at who is likely to set the pace and we look forward to following their progress over the course of year."