FSTi: Thrilling finale set for Welsh soil
19 October 2009
The Fiesta SportTrophy International reaches its thrilling climax at the final round of the FIA World Rally Championship in Wales with two drivers battling for supremacy in the hotly contested one-make series.
Germany's Patrick Anglade and Irishman Craig Breen enter into the sixth and final round of the competition locked in a gripping battle for the overall title.
Anglade currently leads the championship after victories at Rally d'Italia Sardegna and Rally Poland, but Breen, who kicked off the season with a win at Vodafone Rally de Portugal, has fought back in the second half of the season, taking to the top step of the podium at Neste Oil Rally Finland.
Overall victory in FSTi would complete a hat trick of FST victories this season for the County Kilkenny teenager and co-driver Gareth Roberts, adding the FSTi title to the FST Ireland and Kick Energy FST UK titles already under his belt. However, Anglade currently tops the FSTi table with 143 points, 34 points ahead of Breen, having completed two more rallies than the Irishman.
The FSTi scoring system allows all drivers to drop their worst two scores at the end of the year, with only their four best scores counting towards the title, meaning that, in reality, the gap between the two rivals in much smaller. With one point earned for each stage win on top of the points for overall position, there are a maximum of 46 points on offer to either driver. Breen however, must finish in order to take the championship.
Adding an extra element of interest to an already fascinating battle is the fact that Breen will be behind the wheel of the new Fiesta R2 while Anglade and co-driver Peter Loth will be in the familiar Fiesta ST that the German has driven all season. With the R2 expected to be around 1.5sec/km faster on the Welsh gravel than the Fiesta ST, Breen could hold the trump card. But Anglade has relatively more experience in the ST and will hope his tactic of putting his faith in the tried and tested car will pay dividends.
"In Spain we saw that the Fiesta R2 is much faster than the Fiesta ST,” Anglade said. “Nevertheless, we were able to keep some of them behind us. This was not a bad start at all, but the stages in Wales are quite difficult and we have to give our best. At Rally GB especially, a mistake can occur quickly; we want to use the chances we are given. Even if the ST is not as fast as the R2, we still want to fight.
“In contrast to Craig [Breen], two of our results have to be dropped since we had taken part in all six FSTi legs, so at least we have a 'cushion' of points - Craig definitely has to finish the rally or he will not have enough results to win the championship."
While Anglade and Breen are the only two drivers competing for the overall title, they will be ably supported in what is sure to be an exciting rally by six entrants looking to stamp their mark on the competition before the end of the season.
Ahmed Al Mansoori is battling for third place with his Team Abu Dhabi team-mates Majed Al Shamsi and Bader Al Jabri. Meanwhile, Castrol Team Türkiye drivers Emre Yurdakul and Burcu Çetinkaya will be aiming to get the best out of their new Fiesta R2s after gaining valuable experience in Spain. Finn Atte Alanen completes the field returning to the FSTi for the first time this season.
Al Mansoori and co-driver Killian Duffy have made huge strides forward this season and an impressive performance at Rallye de España moved the young Emirati ahead of his Team Abu Dhabi colleagues to occupy a coveted third place in the championship.
He will come under considerable pressure, however, from the consistent Al Jabri and co-driver Steve McAuley, while Al Shamsi will also be looking step onto the podium with co-driver Alan Harryman.
Burcu Çetinkaya and co-driver Çiçek Güney failed to finish in Spain after a first-day accident caused terminal damage to her car. Nonetheless, the experience gained in their new R2 should stand them in good stead for a stronger result in Wales.
Meanwhile, Çetinkaya's team-mate Emre Yurdakul proved his pace in the R2 with a strong result in Spain and will be aiming to take his first FSTi win of the season to upset the championship leaders.
Alanen made his FSTi debut at Neste Oil Rally Finland last year and will be looking to further build his international experience in Wales alongside co-driver Teemu Horkama. Horkama actually competed against Alanen – albeit in the driver's seat – at the WRC event in Finland last year, so it will be interesting to see how he copes in the navigator's seat.
The prize for the FSTi championship winner will be an all-expenses-paid test in the latest specification Ford Focus RS WRC with Ford factory driver Mikko Hirvonen. There is also the chance for those who do not achieve championship glory, but who have entered at least four events, to test the Ford Focus RS WRC.
As in previous years, the series winner plus one 'wildcard' will be put forward to the FST International Shootout to compete against drivers from other FST championships around the world in order to win a year's residential contract to work at M-Sport.