Ford Fiesta S2000 crews braced for Bulgarian battle
Two Ford Fiesta Super 2000 crews will make their way to Bulgaria next week to contest the brand new FIA World Rally Championship round.

Despite Bulgaria not acting as an official Super 2000 World Rally Championship (S-WRC) round, Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor and Dennis Kuipers/Fred Miclotte will both tackle the event in the Ford Fiesta Super 2000 to gain more experience of the new generation rally car on the first all-tarmac round of the season.

Solberg will be entered in the Eastern European event under the Stobart M-Sport Ford banner, but will not be nominated to score manufacturer points. Solberg will also compete in the Ford Fiesta S2000 at the WRC rounds in Germany, Spain and France later this year as he and co-driver Minor look to gain experience of the S2000 car on tarmac.

Dennis Kuipers will drive a Super 2000 on tarmac for the first time next week and will be partnered by Fred Miclotte who recently won the Geko Ypres Rally with Freddie Loix. The 24-year-old Dutchman is an M-Sport entry and made the transition to the Ford Fiesta S2000 this year after previously contesting in several European and WRC events in a Ford Focus RS WRC in both 2008 and 2009.

For the tarmac tests in Bulgaria the Ford Fiesta Super 2000s have been given approximately 30% stiffer suspension which has lowered the general ride height of the car by 80mm. Bigger brakes are also needed as tarmac requires extra grip, so the front brake disc diameter has been increased from 300mm to 355mm. The wheels have also been changed from 7 x 15 to 8 x 18.

Event Summary
Bulgaria is a country with a long rally history and the Eastern European country has acted as a round in the European Rally Championship for over 40 years. This year, however, marks the debut of Rally Bulgaria as a round in the World Rally Championship calendar.

Rally HQ is based in the ski resort of Borovets, at the base of the Rila Mountain in southern Bulgaria. The service park is situated 25km from Borovets, at Dolna Banya.

Friday will mark the first full day of action and consists of four stages totalling 118.68km situated south of the service park. The opening Batak Lake stage (SS1 and SS3) is the longest of the rally at 31.77km and the last half of the tarmac stage winds round the picturesque Batak Lake. A twisty 27.57km stage beside the Belmeken Lake, rounds off the end of the morning and afternoon loop.

The second full day is the longest of the three day event at 140.90km and consists of a 27.46km stage, Sestrimo, (SS5 and SS8) based close to the Belmeken Lake that the teams had to visit on the first day. Peshtera (SS6 and SS9) is a 18.13km stage based south east of the service park and Lyubnitsa (SS7 and SS10) is a stage based north, consisting of 24.86km competitive distance.

The final day of Rally Bulgaria will see the S2000 crews travel to four stages totalling 94.52km north east of Dolna Banya. The opening Muhovo stage (SS11 and SS13) is the second longest of the event at 29.53km and Slavovitsa (SS12 and SS14) is the shortest of the rally at 17.73km.

Henning Solberg said:
Im looking forward to trying out the new Ford Fiesta Super 2000 car in Bulgaria as Ive heard really good reports. Its also good that Bulgaria is a new WRC round as it will help to give everyone an equal chance, especially for me as I will be in a car that I am not used to driving. Itll be interesting to see how the car performs on tarmac surfaces too and this will provide good practice for me when I go out to the other tarmac rounds later in the season. Im very happy to be given this opportunity and I hope to produce some fast stage times during this round.

Dennis Kuipers said:
Bulgaria is a totally new rally and the first time I have driven the [Ford Fiesta] Super 2000 on tarmac so it will be an interesting experience. I am pleased that Henning Solberg will be joining me in Bulgaria in another S2000 as I think that I will be able to learn a lot from him. It is good that Bulgaria is a new rally for everyone as it will hopefully give me a chance to finish in a high position. The stages look quite fast and the tarmac may be rough in places, making the settings of the car very important for this round.

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