New Zealand's Stephen Barker wins FST International Shootout
Current Fiesta SportTrophy New Zealand champion Stephen Barker has rounded off a near-perfect season by winning the series' finale Shootout, held on Wednesday and Thursday at M-Sport in Cumbria.
Barker, aged 22 from Kerikeri on the North Island, New Zealand, beat off stiff competition from 17 other finalists to take victory at the Shootout.
His Shootout prize includes a 12-month work experience contract with M-Sport to work with the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team. Barker will also have the chance to work in a number of different areas of the company, travelling to the European WRC events, attending press functions and driving at PR events.
While the 22-year-old driver had been one of the favourites to take the title, he faced stiff opposition over the two-day competition. The 18 competitors, who had qualified for the Shootout based on their performances in FST championships around the globe, faced a series of physical and psychological tests as well as a final driving challenge on a three kilometre stage at M-Sport's Greystoke Forest. Barker led the Shootout overnight with current Kick Energy FST UK champion Elfyn Evans and FST Sweden champion Carl Ward tied in second place.
Carl Ward's ability behind the wheel shone through as he posted the fastest time on Thursday's test at Greystoke with Fiesta ST driver, Jussi Kumpumaki in second place.
With all of their scores tallied, the final six candidates were interviewed by M-Sport Managing Director Malcolm Wilson OBE and BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver Mikko Hirvonen. Stephen Barker was joined in the final group by UK's Elfyn Evans, Finland's Jussi Kumpumaki, Scotland's John MacCrone, France's Pierre-Alexandre Perrin and Sweden's Carl Ward.
The first part of Barker's prize begins tomorrow [Friday 19 November] when he gets the chance to take the wheel of the award-winning Ford Fiesta S2000
"Winning this title really has left me lost for words, I'm over the moon," said Barker. "I have had a fantastic season and to win the championship in the same year was incredible, but this is something else altogether. I've been working towards this all year and after the fitness tests went well for me yesterday [Wednesday] I knew I was in the top five so was feeling quietly confident. I honestly couldn't wish for anything more and I can't wait to start."
M-Sport Managing Director Malcolm Wilson said:
"This has been without doubt the most difficult FST International Shootout to judge so far and it was extremely difficult to pick a winner. All the finalists would have been very worthy winners and they have been the highest standard of candidates so far. However, in view of Stephen's limited experience, his high marks from yesterday and improvement over the two runs, we felt that he really deserved to win here today."