The 2010 Kick Energy Fiesta SportTrophy (FST) UK and Fiesta SportChallenge (FSC) championships reach their halfway point next weekend, 28-29 May, on the Jim Clark International Rally and the Jim Clark Challenge Rally. The Kelso Racecourse based event is the first of three consecutive all Tarmac events for the championship and is one of the only closed-road Tarmac rallies on the UK mainland.
The weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the event, which was set up in memory of the late Formula One driver Jim Clark, one of the greatest drivers in the history of the sport. The event kicks off on Friday evening with a one and a quarter mile special stage through the town centre of Clark’s hometown, Duns, which see cars race through the tight, twisting streets at speeds close to 100mph. The International competitors will then battle it out over 140 miles of Tarmac stages around the Scottish Borders and Berwickshire with each stage being tackled twice. The competitors in the FSC also start with the Duns town centre stage and then tackle seven stages totalling 70 competitive miles. Both events start and finish in Duns with Rally HQ and service based at Kelso Racecourse.
FST Championship leader Elfyn Evans, 21 from Machynlleth and co-driver Andrew Edwards head North of the Border knowing that no matter what they will leave the event with the championship lead intact. That is unlikely to stop them chasing their fourth consecutive FST victory, despite not yet competing on a sealed surface rally in 2010 Evans has plenty experience to draw upon on Tarmac having won 2008 Fiesta SportTrophy Ireland championship which competes on the same events as the Irish Tarmac Championship.
Second in the FST standings heading into the Jim Clark International Rally are the Scottish pairing of John Boyd and Craig Wallace. Boyd, 23 from West Linton will be hoping for better luck on his home event than on Round 3, where a rear stub failure caused him roll at high speed. Boyd competed on the Jim Clark in 2009 and will have to put that experience to good use to close the gap to Evans when he returns there next weekend.
After suffering teething troubles on the opening two events of the season FST newcomer Peter Taylor, 18 from Jedburgh and co-driver Andy Richardson enjoyed their best result to date on the Pirelli Rally finishing second behind championship leader Evans. That result moved them from sixth to third in the overall standings and the pair will be looking to cement that position around Taylor’s local roads.
John MacCrone, 20 from the Isle of Mull, was another to suffer a roll on the Pirelli Rally, leaving the Rally Team Scotland mechanics with more panels to replace on the Fiesta R2 after he and co-driver Stuart Louden suffered a similar fate the previous week. The pairing will be hoping for a strong result on their and their team’s home event.
Irishman Matthew Cathcart, 18 from Enniskillen made a welcome return to the series in Carlisle with new co-driver Calvin Cooledge alongside. The challenging Kielder stages took their toll on Cathcart’s Fiesta and he forced to retire after a rock dragged out by a competitor in front pierced the sump and forced them out of the event. Cathcart will be looking for a strong result on his debut on the Jim Clark Rally to get his championship challenge back on track.
Galwayman Jonny Cunningham, 26 from Workington and co-driver Richard Millener lead the way in the Fiesta SportChallenge as the championship makes it’s visit north of the border. Having finished second in the Irish Junior championship in 2009 Cunningham has plenty of Tarmac experience to draw upon. Cunningham holds a slender six-point advantage over John Pritchard with Richard Parry-Jones a further three points back in third.
Along with Cunningham, Pritchard, from Ruthin in North Wales and co-driver Chris Williams have been the model of consistency in the 2010 FSC, finishing on the podium in all three events so far. The event marks the first time Pritchard will have competed in anger on Tarmac in over fifteen years and he will be looking for a good result on the event to close the gap to Cunningham.
Winner of the FSC section on the Pirelli Challenge Rally was Silsden based 28-year-old Damien Smith. He and co-driver Frazer Hutchinson capitalised on problems encountered by Cunningham to finish the event with a lead of over one minute 30seconds. The Jim Clark marks the first Tarmac event Smith will tackle in his Fiesta and he will be looking to build on his success in Carlisle to close the gap on the series leaders.
Richard Parry-Jones and Sara Price, from Abermaw have posted some strong results on their return to competition in the Gwyndaf Evans Motors prepared Fiesta ST to hold third in the standings heading into the first all Tarmac event of the year. The pairing will be looking for a strong result to boost that position ahead of the final points scoring event of the year.
Round 3 of the championship saw FSC newcomer Alex Laffey with new co-driver Peter Martin. The switch helped the 18 year old from Market Harborough score his best result of the year with fourth and also raised him to fourth in the overall standings. Although never having competed on the Jim Clark, Laffey has some experience of sealed surface stages having twice tackled the Pendragon Rally and also the Rally of the Midlands.
17-year-old Dan O’Brien from St Albans has a new co-driver beside him for the Jim Clark Rally, the experienced Paul Morris taking the passenger seat. O’Brien recently took in the Welsh International Rally around the challenging Epynt military ranges to improve his pace on Tarmac ahead of the Jim Clark Rally. O’Brien finished sixth in Class 3 on the event against some strong opposition.
Jamie Brown, 18 from Foulsham will make the long trip north next weekend to tackle the Jim Clark Rally for the first time. Brown and co-driver Craig Burgess scored their best result of the 2009 season on the all Tarmac Ulster Rally and will be hoping that provides a strong basis for a good result.
2009 Championship contender Rory Hall, 27, from Trefasser, makes a welcome return to the series in the Fiesta SportChallenge on the Jim Clark Rally. Hall along with co-driver Lee Burgess contested four rounds of the 2009 Fiesta SportTrophy recording a best result of eighth on the Bulldog and Scottish Challenge Rallies against some strong opposition.
Muc-Off Motorsport have sponsored a new award for Fiesta SportTrophy UK and Fiesta SportChallenge competitors. Muc-Off will supply a range of cleaning products to the best-presented car prior to the start of the event. The M-Sport technical representative on each event will judge the award. The Muc-Off Best Presented Car award joins the £2700 prize fund and the Castrol Hard Charger Award on the prize package for the FST UK and FSC series. As on all BRC rounds FST UK competitors will also be eligible for the Pirelli Star Driver Nomination for the Jim Clark International Rally an accolade already taken by Elfyn Evans so far this year.