Kris Hall won the first round of the Kick Energy Fiesta SportTrophy UK, the Malcolm Wilson Rally, by 54 seconds and finished 18th in the overall classification to make the perfect start to his 2009 season.

Despite being the home event for the Appleby driver, not all odds were stacked in Hall's favour, as it was the first time he had teamed up with navigator Robbie Durant.

There were many 'firsts' for FST competitors on the season-opener. The event was to be 2008 FST International Shootout winner, Belgium's Matthias Boon's ninth rally, but his first rally on gravel and his first rally outside of his home country. Harry Hunt from London had never competed before and only had five miles of experience in a rally car, while Matt Edwards had worked hard to build his own car in a three sided barn, only just completing it in time. Stefan Davis meanwhile bought his Fiesta ST just one day before the rally, so had little experience of the car before the start of the rally.

Heading into SS1, Hobcarton, conditions were reported to be inconsistent, with stages covered in slippery mud with occasional areas of grip. The first stage was won by Hall, setting a stunning time of 3 minutes 12 seconds, a new FST record for the stage.

In second position was Craig Breen with 2008 FST UK and FST Ireland champion co-driver Gareth Roberts. In joint third place were Davis with co-driver Louise Cook and Edwards with co-driver Andy Murphy. Last year's Malcolm Wilson Rally winner, Stevie Brown was aiming for another win, but suffered with a broken driveshaft on SS1 causing considerable time loss.

SS2, Comb (5.63 miles), witnessed a second stage win by Hall six seconds ahead of Breen and eight seconds ahead of Edwards in third. FST regular Barry Greer broke a driveshaft on the start of SS2 and had to limp through the stage

SS3 saw Hall, and Breen set exactly the same time with Edwards once again third. There where three drivers in equal fourth position again showing how tight the FST series is. Stefan Davis, Barry Greer and Mark Donnelly, whose team had worked round the clock to repair his Fiesta ST after he suffered an accident the previous weekend. Billy Coleman Award winner Ross Forde struggled through the stage with an intermittent engine problem.

Greystoke 1 was the last stage before the cars were due into service and paid its toll on a number of the Fiestas, changing the order significantly. Current leader Hall lost over a minute with a fuel pump issue dropping him into third position, a problem that would also affect Ross Forde and Neil Coalter. Second-placed Breen was the first retirement from the event, losing forward drive three miles into the stage and putting him out. Matthias Boon, John Boyd, Donnelly and Edwards all sustained punctures in Greystoke Forest.

The problems for Hall and Breen resulted in Stefan Davis taking the stage win and rising into the lead. Kyle Orr snatched second place on the stage and overall, with Manx Motorsport Youth Trust supported Martin Jones third fastest on the stage.

Following the service in Penrith, the rally headed south to SS5, Grizedale South, where drivers were greeted with torrential rain and thick fog. Hall took his fourth fastest stage time of the day. Edwards second and Davis rounding up the top three. Orr struggled with the handling of his car in the Grizedale stages, as well as backing off after a big moment unsettled him.

SS6, Grizedale North, saw Hall inherit the lead once again, with the retirement of Davis whose impressive drive ended with a suspension failure. Hall was fastest with Edwards second and the recovering Stevie Brown in third. The scene was set for a thrilling finish as both Kyle Orr and Matt Edwards where tied on time going into the final stage.

The final stage of the day, the second run through Greystoke 2 was shortened to approximately three miles to try to improve the conditions. Hall took his sixth fastest stage time of the day, earning himself the Castrol Hard Charger Award and winning the rally by a margin of 54 seconds.

"I'm delighted with this result, but disappointed that Craig [Breen] had to retire in stage four but it's a shame that we were denied that battle," he said. "I look forward to the challenge he'll surely offer during the remainder of the season. I thought it was all over when we lost the fuel pump and I have to thank my team for getting the car back on the road."

The battle for second was taken by Matt Edwards by just 4 seconds from Orr who was happy to finish third on the first round of the series. The awful luck of 2008 winner Stevie Brown didn't improve as he got another puncture and got stuck off the road eventually able to finish the stage with the help of the ever enthusiastic spectators.



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