Vatanen Takes It To The Max On DMACK Opener

Vatanen Takes It To The Max On DMACK Opener

Finland's Max Vatanen stormed to victory as the 2015 Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy began with an action-packed opening round at the Vodafone Rally de Portugal this weekend. Building on the experience he gained during last year's inaugural Trophy series, 24-year-old Vatanen finished on top of the podium after some fast and furious racing over demanding gravel stages.

Tens of thousands of rally fans watched as 11 talented young drivers from 10 different countries got behind the wheel of identical brand new M-Sport-built Ford Fiesta R2s to tackle tough conditions at the event based at Matosinhos, near Porto. The new 1.0 turbo EcoBoost cars, powered by GEM sustainable race fuel, coped remarkably well on their WRC debut.

The lead changed hands several times during the opening skirmishes in northern Portugal before 24-year-old Vatanen assumed control with four thrilling stage wins out of five on Saturday. The dominance of Vatanen and his French co-pilot Jacques-Julien Renucci was such that they won six of the 12 stages.

Vatanen, son of DMACK brand ambassador and former world rally champion Ari, said: “It's such a fantastic feeling to win this rally, it has been a great event for us and everything went to plan. We drove fast when we could and slowed the pace when we had to. I'm very happy and looking forward to the rest of the season.

“For me, there is no better championship for young drivers hoping to make it into the WRC than this. After winning the rookie award last year, I'm excited to be back again, challenging for the Trophy.”

Ten points behind Vatanen, in second place, were Norwegians Marius Aasen and Veronica Engan, who won three stages over the weekend, while Nil Solans and Miki Ibanez from Spain took third spot and 15 points. Last year's championship runner-up Tom Cave battled through electrical problems and a double puncture to finish fifth. He also claimed three stage victories which pushed him up to fourth in the championship standings.

Just a point further back was 18-year-old fellow Brit Gus Greensmith, who acquitted himself well on his first Trophy outing and finished fourth after missing the first day of the recce. Kevin van Deijne from Netherlands, on his first Trophy appearance, made steady progress, as did last year's Shootout winner Mats van den Brand who set some good times during his first gravel rally.

Despite being hampered by difficulties throughout the weekend, Italian Edoardo Bresolin gained good experience for the rounds that lie ahead. Rookie Will Hudson from the USA, in his debut WRC event, set some good times before crashing out of the rally on Saturday. Belgium’s Ghislain de Mévius also missed out on the final day action after retiring with a damaged engine yesterday while Nicolas Amiouni from Lebanon was the final finisher today after retiring with broken suspension yesterday.

Drivers were greeted by a tough route, especially on Friday when they had to contend with rutted roads and huge rocks. Despite the tough terrain, the DMACK tyres also proved both competitive and durable. They offered protection against punctures and the performance to see the leading cars amongst the top two-wheel-drive runners.

Up for grabs for the overall Trophy winner this year is a lucrative full seven-round series of 2016 WRC 2 competition using a Drive DMACK Ford Fiesta R5. The competition, backed by Morris Lubricants, aims to help provide a cost-effective platform for upcoming drivers to experience the FIA World Rally Championship.

The crews will now gear up for the second outing of the season, at the Lotos Rally Poland. This takes place on gravel from 3 - 5 July.

Dick Cormack, DMACK managing director, said: "It’s fantastic to see Max take victory at the first round here. It demonstrates just how valuable this championship is for providing young drivers with the chance to gain experience in WRC. This rally last year was his first WRC event and now he’s leading the championship – his progression is impressive. Once again it’s looking like we will have an extremely competitive season.”

Malcolm Wilson OBE, M-Sport managing director, said: "Congratulations to Max on his first Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy victory. He's driven a well-controlled event with a good turn of speed and clever tactics - a thoroughly deserved win.

"The new Ford Fiesta R2 has performed exceptionally well on these rough roads and it was fantastic to see all 11 cars finish the first difficult day. Max was the highest placed R2 car and finished ahead of all but two of the R3 specification cars which is a fantastic result for both him and the Fiesta."

Driver Quotes

Nicolas Amiouni: “For sure it's great to be back competing here. We've had a lot of problems in Portugal and it was unfortunate to damage the car and retire on Saturday. I'm eager to get back on track and hopefully perform better in Poland.”

Marius Aasen: “Veronica and I had a really good rally. After the problems on Friday, we were too far adrift to contest for the top podium but second place is a great result. It all worked well and hopefully we can carry that forward into Poland.”

Tom Cave: "It’s been a tough weekend, some of the most challenging stages I have driven. We will re-group, look forward to Poland and aim for a better result. Hopefully the issues we have been experiencing will be sorted by then.”

Ghislain de Mévius: “It's been a bad start to the championship for us, a misunderstanding with the pace notes and it meant an early end to the rally. That sort of thing happens in rallying and we move on. It hasn't knocked my confidence so we will come back in Poland.”

Mats van den Brand: “I'm enjoying my first year in the Trophy a lot, but it hasn't been my weekend here in Portugal. I hope to push for a place in the top five. The organisation of the competition has been great, very professional. The guys from M-Sport have been working hard and it's a great atmosphere. I'm proud to be a part of it all.”

Edoardo Bresolin: “So far I'm enjoying the Fiesta Trophy. The race has been difficult but I am learning a lot. We were unlucky with a few problems and made a few errors but it's all good experience. It's a great learning opportunity and I hope to perform better in Poland.”

Kevin van Deijne: “I enjoyed the rally very well and I feel I improved a lot. We finished with good pace at the end so that was great. If I had to summarise I would say it has been tough! It's a very competitive field here in the Drive DMACK Fiesta Trophy.”

Gus Greensmith: “The first objective was to gain experience, and you can't do that by the side of the road. So we took our time and went cautiously. Coupling that with the fact our pacenotes weren’t up to scratch I’m more than satisfied with our position. I'm getting more confident as time goes on and I get a better feeling for the car.”

Will Hudson: “It's been an interesting experience so far but I would say an overall positive one. It's my first WRC event, and one of the tougher ones at that. It was a big shame about the accident as we were starting to make positive gains in pace. The support we have received from the M-Sport mechanics and the organisers has been fantastic.”

Nil Solans: “We tried to be as safe as possible through this rough rally and it seems to have paid off. It’s been difficult for sure but I am very happy to reach the podium. Hopefully the next event won’t be so rough. I'm very happy to be back, again the driving standard is very high.”

Final Classification

1. Max Vatanen / Jacques-Julien Renucci 4h 08m 39.2s
2. Marius Aasen / Veronica Engan 4h 10m 12.7s
3. Nil Solans / Miquel Ibańez 4h 14m 05.3s
4. Gus Greensmith / Elliott Edmondson 4h 14m 37.0s
5. Tom Cave / Craig Parry 4h 4m 40.9s
6. Kevin van Deijne / Harmen Scholtalbers 4h 15m 57.1s
7. Mats van den Brand / Martijn Wydaeghe 4h 28m 14.9s
8. Edoardo Bresolin / Rudy Pollet 4h 34m 47.0s
9. Nicolas Amiouni / Joseph Matar 5h 33m 15.6s

Trophy Classification

1. Max Vatanen / Jacques-Julien Renucci 31
2. Marius Aasen / Veronica Engan 21
3. Nil Solans / Miquel Ibańez 15
4. Tom Cave / Craig Parry 13
5. Gus Greensmith / Elliott Edmondson 12
6. Kevin van Deijne / Harmen Scholtalbers 8
7. Mats van den Brand / Martijn Wydaeghe 6
8. Edoardo Bresolin / Rudy Pollet 4
9. Nicolas Amiouni / Joseph Matar 2
10. Will Hudson / Alex Gelsomino 0
11. Ghislain de Mévius / Geoffrey Brion 0


Vatanen Takes It To The Max On DMACK Opener
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