Pärn's Perfect Portugal In Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy

Pärn's Perfect Portugal In Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy

The Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy delivered on its promise to provide close competition when this weekend's opening event saw five different drivers lead the series before Estonia's Sander Pärn blasted home to steal victory on the final loop of stages today at Rally de Portugal. The dramatic finish unfolded when Frenchman Quentin Gilbert, who started the final day at the head of the field, retired after a road accident on his way to the first stage this morning.

Pärn (22) and co-driver James Morgan, who was making his FIA World Rally Championship debut, found themselves locked in a scintillating final day battle with Brits Tom Cave (22) and co-driver Craig Parry. After making a slow start this morning, which allowed Cave to move into a slender 0.4 second lead, Pärn upped the pace to take the opening round victory by 20.8 seconds.

Third place went to the Belgian duo Ghislain de Mévius (25) and Johan Jalet who put in a consistent drive on their first WRC event.

The dramatic finish followed three days of arduous Algarve action on Portugal's round of the world championship. The event kicked off the cost-effective series which gave 12 aspiring drivers the opportunity to line up in M-Sport-prepared Ford Fiesta R2 rally cars shod with DMACK's newly-developed gravel tyre.

The opening sprint through the Tarmac street stage in Lisbon on Thursday evening saw Spaniard José Suárez edge into an early lead but when the rally headed into the Serra do Caldeiro hills above Faro, Marius Aasen from Norway moved ahead after setting fastest times on the morning loop. However, he was sidelined with broken steering as exposed bedrock on the tough gravel stages battered the Fiestas.

Saturday saw Yeray Lemes take the battle to Suárez with the pair locked in a day-long fight – trading seconds on every stage. But the intense pace saw them both make mistakes on the 31.9km Santana da Serra stage. Lemes was first to retire after pulling a rear wheel off his car with Suárez forced into a deep ditch after innocently clipping the inside of a slow corner.

With Gilbert's rally ending on a non-competitive section first thing this morning, Pärn and Cave found themselves in a surprise fight for victory. Pärn was slow out of the blocks allowing Cave to briefly move into the lead by just 0.4 seconds and creating a nail-biting climax under sunny blue skies. But Pärn responded to shoot through the final two tests and clinch a deserved win to go top of the points table.

Early leader Suárez fought back to fourth but boosted his championship position by taking an additional five points awarded for fastest stage times and moving up to third in the championship.

Max Vatanen had a rally full of ups and downs. He showed a surprising pace on his WRC debut to set two fastest times but rolled on the opening day, incurred a road accident on Saturday and retired early today after sliding off the road.

Szymon Kornicki from Poland, Nil Solans and 'Crazy' Leo Urlichich all had mixed events but benefitted from the WRC experience. Nicolas Amiouni from Lebanon retired early in the rally after a heavy crash on stage two. The Trophy resumes with Lotos Rally Poland on 27-29 June.

Final Classification

1. Sander Pärn / James Morgan 4h 14m 19.8s
2. Tom Cave / Craig Parry 4h 14m 40.6s
3. Ghislain de Mevius / Johan Jalet 4h 17m 58.9s
4. José Suárez / Pablo Marcos 4h 18m 01.4s
5. Yeray Lemes / Rogelio Penate 4h 18m 07.9s
6. Szymon Kornicki / Przemyslaw Mazur 4h 19m 20.8s
7. Marius Aasen / Marlene Engan 4h 22m 20.8s
8. Leo Urlichich / Andrew Roughead 4h 33m 42.2s

Trophy Classification

1. Sander Pärn / James Morgan 25
2. Tom Cave / Craig Parry 18
3. José Suárez / Pablo Marcos 17
4. Ghislain de Mevius / Johan Jalet 15
5. Yeray Lemes / Rogelio Penate 14
6. Marius Aasen / Marlene Engan 8
7. Szymon Kornicki / Przemyslaw Mazur 8
8. Leo Urlichich / Andrew Roughead 4
9. Max Vatanen / Mikko Lukka 2
10. Quentin Gilbert / Renaud Jamoul 1
11. Nil Solans / Miquel Ibanez 0
12. Nicolas Amiouni / Carlos de Barrio 0

Dick Cormack, DMACK managing director, said: "Congratulations to Sander for cleverly managing the event and pushing when he needed to. I've been encouraged by the speed of some of the drivers but also by the performance of our tyres. They've coped well with the tough conditions here and helped the drivers set some very impressive times."

Malcolm Wilson OBE, M-Sport Managing Director, said: "It's been a very exciting opener to the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy. Considering the drivers we chose, I think it's fair to say that we were expecting some close-fought competition, but nothing quite as exciting as this. We saw five different leaders and then a gripping final-stage battle for the win. Congratulations to all of the crews who made it through these difficult stages, and a particular well done to Sander for claiming the victory here this weekend."

Driver Quotes

Marius Aasen: "The rally started really well for us and it was great to show we had the speed by setting some fastest times on the first day – that's encouraging that we have a good pace. Today we tried to drive very safely through the stages without any problems and we stuck to that plan. We were a bit unlucky at the start of the rally but we finished very well. We know the speed is good when everything is working so we are still looking forward to Poland."

Nicolas Amiouni: "It was obviously not the way I wanted the rally to go. The most disappointing thing was that we didn't get much experience of the car or the stages so I still have quite a bit to learn. We went off the road because we didn't have the right pacenote and were going too fast into the corner. Luckily both myself and Carlos are ok but it was quite a big accident."

Tom Cave: "It's been a great weekend, a very tough rally. Conditions have been really hard on the car. We are pleased with second, it was nice to take the lead this morning but then on the second stage we bent the steering so I knew it was our first warning to back off. I have learnt so much in the space of three days and I can't describe how much my driving has improved."

Quentin Gilbert: "Our rally and approach was working really well here. We don't have the experience of the car so we decided to maintain a sensible pace from the start and stayed with it. I knew it wasn't possible to be on the same speed as some of the other guys but it was important for us to learn the car and these difficult stages. It was a huge disappointment to retire today as we had a comfortable lead and it was looking good for the victory."

Yeray Lemes: "We have good experience of this rally so it was one where we decided to show that we had the speed and it was a good battle at the front. But we went off, which is very unusual and it means now that we need to make sure to not have any mistakes in Poland. Fifth position is a good start but we need to do better."

Szymon Kornicki: "This was so much different to any rally I've ever done before. It's longer, tougher and we really needed to come here and get the experience – that was the most important thing for us. I know I can't race with the guys at the front for the moment so we decided to go steady and learn as much as possible. One of the things I need to improve is my pacenotes."

Ghislain de Mévius: "I'm so pleased with this result. There's no way I could have imagined at the start of the rally that we could be on the podium. I know my pace is not the best but our approach was to go steady and get to the finish and that really paid off. It's a great start and an amazing result for me."

Sander Pärn: "This is a fantastic result and I'm really happy to finish first. After the first day I didn't think this result would be possible but we increased the pace over the weekend and didn't make any big mistakes. We started slowly this morning and then I decided we had no option but to go for it and we lifted the pace."

Nil Solans: "We had a mixed rally. Some stages went very good for us where the pace was much better and we were close to the top drivers. I didn't want to push too much as it was a very difficult rally and a hard one to start off the championship. You really need to have the experience here."

José Suárez: "I'm happy with the speed and especially with these tyres which were very impressive. OK, we made a mistake but it was good to take the most amount of fastest stage wins and that helps us a lot for the points. The feeling with the car was really good so we are looking forward to Poland now."

Leo Urlichich: "This was an unbelievable experience and fantastic to come and start a WRC rally. It was very tough, difficult and a real challenge. We had some problems but it was great to cover all of the stages and really learn more about the car and stages."

Max Vatanen: "It was encouraging to see that we have a good speed and to set a couple of fastest times. This rally is completely different from what I'm used to and you need to drive with your head on events like this. The mistakes we made were on slow corners so I just need to improve there. I have picked up so much that I can take to other rallies."

Brief biography information on each competitor and further details on the Trophy can be found at www.drivedmack.com.

Media Contact: Glenn Patterson +447872 470115


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