Belgian teenager Matthias Boon has been named as the winner of the 2008 Fiesta SportingTrophy International Shootout after coming out on top on 18 finalists picked to take part in the event.
The 19-year-old, who was a wildcard entry into the event, was chosen as the top driver by M-Sport managing director Malcolm Wilson and double WRC title winner Marcus Gronholm. As his prize, he will win a year of experience and training with the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team – becoming the third person to take the prize.
This year's Shootout invited first and one wildcard from each national FST championship to compete over two days for the overall prize.
The Shootout began on Tuesday with the group tested on three crucial elements within the sport: physical, psychological and media. Part two of the competition took all 18 drivers into M-Sport's Greystoke Forest for the next major test - driving ability. Following the driving, Wilson and Gronholm selected five drivers for the final test: a one-to-one interview to prove why they should be selected as this year's winner.
Boon ultimately came out on top ahead of Kris Hall, Brendon Reeves, Burcu Çetinkaya and Patrick Johansson and he admitted he was thrilled with the award.
"I am the happiest person in the world right now!” he said. “This is such a fantastic opportunity and words just cannot describe how I am feeling right now. I would like to thank my team from FST Belgium and everyone here who has helped me win this prize.
“These were the hardest conditions I have ever driven today and only my first time on gravel so it was great to be able to show some speed for the judges. I will now focus on giving 100 per cent when I begin working at M-Sport in 2009."
Both Gronholm and Wilson were quick to praise all of the finalists, with Wilson admitting that choosing a winner had been more difficult than on the previous two occasions.
"This has certainly been the most difficult decision to make out of the three Shootouts but Matthias was outstanding and to think he has only contested eight rallies in his career is amazing,” he said. “Kris was the quickest guy out there and scored highly on all areas which made the decision such a difficult one. I will have to look at the structure for next year but for sure we will offer support to Kris in some way for his achievements over the past two days.
“Matthias was something special and despite this being his first time driving on gravel he knew exactly where he was losing time on the stage today and to be able to diagnose this with his limited experience is incredible. He will now join the team from the start of 2009 at M-Sport and will be heading to Rally Ireland for his on-event duties with the BP Ford Abu Dhabi team's weather and safety department. With his mechanical knowledge it will be interesting also to see how he develops in the workshop helping build the Ford Focus RS WRC."