M-Sport cars enjoyed success on two very different circuits last weekend as a number of Ford Fiesta R5 drivers took to the Circuit of Ireland while Bentley Team M-Sport competed on the opening round of the Blancpain Sprint Series in Misano.
As the longest running event in the British Isles, the Circuit of Ireland is one of the country’s most popular rallies and attracts a large number of entries year on year. This year, the event formed a round of the FIA European Rally Championship, MSA British Rally Championship and Clonakilty Blackpudding Irish Tarmac Championship with the Fiesta R5 well represented in all three series.
Six Fiesta R5s finished in the overall top-ten with three in the overall top-four. Two of the ERC podium positions belonged to the Fiesta and the Blue Oval also secured victories in both the BRC and Irish Tarmac Championships.
For the second year in succession, Kajetan Kajetanowicz delivered a stunning drive through the region’s country roads to secure a strong second place behind the wheel of his Fiesta R5 Evo which propelled him into the lead of the ERC standings.
Finishing just 10.6 seconds adrift of local boy Craig Breen, the Pole showed his class by pushing the Irishman all the way to the finish and is well placed to defend his ERC title as the series continues.
Third overall went to the Fiesta R5 Evo of Alastair Fisher as the Northern Irishman returned to the international podium. He also secured victory in the Irish Tarmac Championship and will be keen to deliver further victories in the championship as his season continues.
Fourth place was awarded to Josh Moffett in his Fiesta R5 Evo. As well as securing a well-deserved fourth place, the Irishman also claimed the BRC victory and second place in the Irish Tarmac Championship. The result propelled him to second place in the BRC standings and the lead of the Irish Tarmac Championship.
Early leader Elfyn Evans looked set to take a convincing win and extend his lead at the head of the BRC standings before a broken alternator belt side-lined him on stage three. Returning under Rally 2 regulations for the final day, the Welshman fell foul of the conditions – getting off line in a hail storm and making contact with a wall which damaged his Fiesta on Saturday afternoon.
Despite the event not ending as he would have hoped, Evans proved that he and the DMACK British Rally Team Fiesta R5 Evo can compete at the head of the field – establishing a commanding lead before his troubles and winning all but one of the stages he and co-driver Craig Parry completed.
Thanks to a double haul of maximum points on the opening BRC round in Wales last month, Evans still holds a convincing 20 point lead in the standings.
Elsewhere, on the racetrack, Bentley Team M-Sport got their Blancpain Sprint Series season started in spectacular fashion as Andy Soucek and Maxime Soulet claimed victory in Saturday’s Qualifying Race at Misano – the spoils coming courtesy of an excellent team strategy and some top-class driving from both Soucek and Soulet.
On Pole for the Main Race, the pairing were keen to deliver another strong result. Unfortunately it was not to be as the #8 Bentley Continental GT3 was sent spinning to the back of the field by a fellow competitor on the opening lap.
Thanks to a charging drive, the Spanish/Belgian duo fought their way through the 38-strong field to cross the line in 11th place and the team will be keen to make amends when the Endurance Series gets underway in Monza later this month.
M-Sport Managing Director, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said: “It’s been a great weekend of motorsport and we’ve seen some excellent performances on both the stages and the racetrack. The level of competition at the Circuit of Ireland was incredibly high so it was fantastic to see the Fiesta drivers performing so strongly against our competitors.
“We saw some fantastic performances from the likes of Kajetan, Alastair and Josh. This was an extremely difficult event and they all performed superbly. Kajetan‘s second successive second place now means that he is leading the ERC standings, Alastair’s third place also translated to first place in the Irish Tarmac Championship and Josh’s fourth place gave him the BRC victory as well as second place in the Irish Tarmac Championship which propels him into the lead of the series.
“Winning all but one of the stages he completed, Elfyn showed some good pace but unfortunately the event didn’t pan out as he had hoped. That said, he has proven the performance of the Fiesta and I’m sure that he’ll be hungrier than ever when he returns to competition in Argentina next week.
“Bentley started their Blancpain campaign in the best possible way with victory in Saturday’s Qualifying Race. A good strategy combined with some great driving, and a little bit of luck, gave us the win and the team maximised the driving time to perfection which bodes extremely well for the future.
“Unfortunately an incident on the first lap meant that we were unable to challenge for the podium positions during the Main Race, but the whole team did a fantastic job and I’m sure that there will be many more successes to come.”