2010 Rally America Champion Chris Duplessis will compete in R2 Fiesta in the WRC Academy at Wales Rally GB
2010 2WD Rally America National Champion Chris Duplessis has made the best of his limited seat time in Team O’Neil’s Ford Fiesta R2 by winning his class at Rally America’s New England Forest Rally and the 2WD class at the Mount Washington Hill Climb. Now the 24-year-old native of New Hampshire is primed for a bigger challenge competing against some of the WRC’s brightest up-and-coming stars.
Duplessis will represent Rally America, RallyStream.TV and Team O’Neil Rally School in the 2011 WRC Academy finale at the Wales Rally GB November 10-13. The WRC Academy is the entry point to the WRC ladder system - a single spec series where all drivers will compete with identical Ford Fiesta R2s prepared by M-Sport on control tires by Pirelli.
Duplessis will pilot an M-Sport R2 Fiesta thanks to the backing of Rally America and RallyStream.TV, and the opportunity provided by Ford Racing.
“This opportunity would not be possible without Ford Racing, Rally America and Team O’Neil Rally School. They are providing me a chance to go out and compete in the Wales Rally GB,” said Duplessis. “An opportunity like this is huge for someone looking to grow in the sport but it’s also about helping shine a light on the growing sport of rally in the U.S.”
“Tim [O’Neil] and I had already planned on building a Fiesta R2 and so we worked hard, got it done and showed up to race at STPR and New England where we were running strong and has some great results. Through that, the opportunity with Ford Racing came about for me to compete in Rally GB. This really is a dream come true. To have an opportunity like this is ridiculous; none of the other manufacturers in North American rally come close to Ford. Others might offer you parts support, but that is about it. Ford has gone above and beyond in what they need to do.”
The opportunity for Duplessis came about through the relationship between Ford Racing, M-Sport, Rally America and Team O’Neil Rally School.
“We all recognize the need to help grow Rallying in the U.S. and the stars aligned to allow Chris, one of the fastest 2WD competitors in U.S. rallying, the chance to compete in Rally GB and shine a light on the competitiveness of the drivers competing in the Rally America National Championship,” said Jamie Allison, Director, Ford Racing.
“Over the past few years, Ford has been very active in helping further the sport of Rally in the U.S. – from our partnership with the Team O’Neil Rally School to our ongoing support of Rally America and its competitors to making the M-Sport Fiesta R2 kit available in the U.S.,” said Allison. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Chris. We knew he was a championship driver, but to dominate his class and to nearly podium overall at New England in a 2WD entry against the AWD field, that speaks volumes about Chris’ ability and the Fiesta R2. This is another indicator of Ford’s dedication to growing rally racing in North America.”
Duplessis won the 2010 Rally America National Championship. He ran a limited schedule in 2011 but he won his class at New England and finished in the Top 5 missing a podium finish by just ninety seconds. He won the 2WD class at the Mount Washington Hill Climb and he held an eight minute advantage in the 2WD class at STPR before a mishap ended his day on the next to last stage.
“Chris Duplessis is by far one of our most spectacular drivers in the Rally America National Championship who consistently exceeds what is possible in a 2WD rally car,” said Bill Fogg, owner of Rally America. “Our fans and fellow competitors often speculate on how well Duplessis would do against the best racers in Europe if given the opportunity. Now Rally America and our North American fans get to see him do just that and cheer him on to a victory.”
“Watching Chris grow up working toward his goal of becoming a rally champion has been very inspirational,” said Tim O’Neil, who has worked with Duplessis since the young champion first came to the Team O’Neil Rally School at age 12 in 1999. “He has put an incredible amount of effort into his dream and we are excited to see the results finally paying off. Rally is still one of the only motorsports that rewards competitors for their hard work. Chris has proven that he is willing to put in maximum effort to get maximum results”.
The R2 is a full kit made by M-Sport to make a stock showroom Fiesta into a complete top engineered, first class, rally car. M-Sport, located in the UK, has been building top-level Ford rally cars since 1979.
The R2 kit includes a SEDEV flat shift 5-speed sequential gearbox, Reiger dampeners, AP Brakes, wiring loom, pistons, rods, and camshafts and everything else needed to make a complete rally car. All of this combined with the great platform of the Fiesta and the top of line engineering of M-Sport make a potent rally car.
“The M-Sport Fiesta R2 kit is pretty complete, but I am sure they have their own little tricks that they don’t tell everyone," said Duplessis. “I am excited to see all those little things and they have probably built around 200 R2’s so I am sure they have really perfected it where it was my first one. Even after building the first one there were things I was going to change and do differently so I am just excited to see the development and the most modern updates on the whole kit.”
Duplessis will be the only American running in the WRC Academy, but he will have support from one of the most popular drivers in the WRC paddock and a fellow Ford Fiesta driver and American, Ken Block.
“I'm really excited to see Chris coming out to Rally GB for the last stop of the 2011 WRC season,” said Block. “I always enjoyed watching Chris race during my Rally America days and I'm stoked that Ford and Rally America have come together to send him over to Rally GB to race in an R2 Fiesta. It's a quick car and he's a fast driver, so it's a great combination. Hopefully we'll both score points that weekend!”
“There is certainly a little bit of weight on my shoulders in that I am representing North American rally since I am one of the first Americans to go over and I am the first to race in the 2WD class,” said Duplessis. “Nobody’s expectations are higher than mine and I want to show the world that we can be competitive and put on a good show for everybody.”