FSTi to kick-start in Costa Smeralda
The 2008 Fiesta SportingTrophy International series kick starts next week as five crews head to the Mediterranean for Rally d’Italia Sardegna. This will be the third year of competition in which the one-make Ford Fiesta ST GpN cars run within selected events in the FIA World Rally Championship.

Rally Sardinia is one of the more charismatic events in the WRC nestled in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea’s second-largest Island. The event itself will be run over 345 kilometres through 17 competitive gravel stages.

Supported by Pirelli, the series is shaping up to be the hottest yet with five crews and three different nationalities commencing battle in Sardinia. This year, all crews will run with a two-litre Duratec 1999cc engine on a control Pirelli tyre.

Returning for a second full year of FSTi action are Lithuanian crew Vytautas Baranauskas (24) and co-driver Gediminas Celiešius (36). Baranauskas finished all but one event last season stepping on the podium five times in seven events; including a win on Rallye de España. The driver from Kaunas was the only competitor to snatch a victory from the dominant 2007 FSTi champion Barry Clark.

Joining in the action from Turkey are three crews competing under the Castrol Ford Team Türkiye banner. Leading the way will be 2007 Fiesta SportingTrophy Turkey Champion Koray Muratoğlu (30) from Istanbul, along with co-driver Levent Özokutucu.

He will be joined by team-mates Emre Yurdakul (25) from Istanbul and his co-driver Can Erkal (24). Yurdakul is familiar with driving the Fiesta on WRC events, finishing top placed Fiesta on last year’s Rally Finland and was a finalist in the prestigious FST International Shootout held at M-Sport in December. As a warm-up to the Shootout the 25-year-old also contested Wales Rally GB last December; his first ever attempt at the British event.

Completing the Turkish trio is dual Turkish Ladies’ Champion Burcu Çetinkaya (27), also from Istanbul, with Çiçek Güney (26) reading the notes. Çetinkaya is no stranger to the Fiesta ST and was selected as a wildcard entrant to last year’s FST International Shootout after some impressive displays in the Turkish championship. Like her team-mate, Çetinkaya also contested Wales Rally GB in 2007 finishing in an impressive fourth position.

The fifth point to the pentagon is WRC debutant Denis Grodetskiy (33) from Russia and co-driver Safoniy Lotko. Both competitors will experience the sport of rallying at its highest level as they jump into the cockpit of the Fiesta ST for the first time on a WRC event.

Of the five competitors embarking of the opening round of the 2008 FSTi series, only Baranauskas has competed on the event finishing fifth Fiesta last year. Now with seven WRC events under his belt, the Lithuanian will be aiming for the win in Sardinia.

The event will be a true test for new-partners Pirelli who will supply a one-make hard-compound gravel tyre to all FSTi competitors. So far this year all three tyres introduced by Pirelli have held strong on the opening five rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship.

M-Sport Managing Director Malcolm Wilson said:
“The Fiesta SportingTrophy International series is now in its third year and already we have seen some fantastic opportunities come out of the one-make series. Last year’s champion Barry Clark is a perfect example of what can come out of a championship such as FSTi after he was given a surprise call to compete on the Jordan Rally last month. Part of Barry’s prize will see him contest selected events in a Ford Focus WRC this year. Last year we saw the 2006 champion, Alessandro Bettega, competing in a Focus in Corsica where he put in a notably strong performance. The calibre of the FST continues to strengthen across the world and we have already seen some extremely close competition this year in both the UK and Irish championships. I’m delighted to see such a strong interest in the International championship for 2008 and hopefully we will be treated by some close competition over the course of the year.”

2008 FSTi calendar
16-18 May
Rally d’Italia Sardegna
Sardinia, Italy

13-15 June
Rally of Turkey
Kemer, Turkey

31-3 July/August
Neste Oil Rally Finland
Jyvaskyla, Finland

15-17 August
ADAC Rallye Deutschland
Trier, Germany

2-5 October
Rallye de España
Salou, Spain

5-7 December
Wales Rally GB
Wales, Great Britain

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