Simon scoops up second in Spain Welshman Simon Hughes made a strong start to his Fiesta SportingTrophy International (FSTi) Championship campaign this weekend, as he took 2nd in the category on Rallye Catalunya in Spain. The 23 year old ...
Simon scoops up second in Spain
Welshman Simon Hughes made a strong start to his Fiesta SportingTrophy International (FSTi) Championship campaign this weekend, as he took 2nd in the category on Rallye Catalunya in Spain. The 23 year old from Colwyn Bay was making his first ever start on an FIA World Rally Championship event in his Ford Fiesta ST150, and the Spanish tarmac would play host to a truly international field of competitors for three days of intense competition.
Partnered by Berwickshire's Claire Mole, Hughes arrived in Spain's Catalan region determined to make a good start to FSTi series, but faced stiff opposition from drivers hailing from as far a field as Greece and Finland. Having recently finished 2nd on the opening round of the Fiesta SportingTrophy (FST) series for the UK, Hughes was prepared for an altogether more challenging prospect with 16 long and fast tarmac stages to contend with on the Spanish tar.
Hughes started the event steadily, working his way into the Top 5 despite some minor problems with the Ford. Hughes was finding the tarmac stages particularly challenging due to the rocks and mud pulled onto the road by the leading competitors at the head of the field. Welsh rival Tom Curtis quickly fell foul of the mud as he slid off the road and into retirement on just the first stage of the event, and Scot Barry Clark also retired early from the event due to an unfortunate accident. Hughes quickly became the only British driver to remain in with a chance of doing well on the event, and the young Welsh ace began to settle into a steady rhythm over the first day.
Day two would see Hughes hampered further with technical problems, as the Fiesta was pushed harder through the long asphalt stages. Hughes was involved in a battle with Italian tarmac specialist Alex Bettega, and the flying Frenchman Mathieu Biasion for the top honours. The tarmac aces excelled in the conditions, and Hughes was forced to raise his game in order to keep up with the flying duo.
Unfortunately Simon was having a troubled event, with the constant pounding giving brake and steering problems for the all white Fiesta. Hughes would then suffer a severe problem when an engine mount broke, and only sterling work by Simon's mechanics kept him in the event at all. Despite the drama, Simon was still pushing hard enough to set a fastest stage time on the final leg of the rally, and it was a relieved and delighted Hughes who claimed the second podium spot after a tough baptism of fire on the WRC stage:
'I'm still coming to terms with the weekend to be honest' said Hughes. 'The pace has been phenomenal here. I've had to drive much harder here than I have in the UK and it certainly took its toll on the car. The conditions were quite rough in places as you have to follow the same lines as the bigger cars, and that caused us quite a lot of mechanical problems with broken steering pipes and a few other things. The biggest concern was when the engine mount broke as I didn't think we'd get to the end, but my service crew did a terrific job in trying to repair the problem and we were fortunate to finish the event all things considered. I'm very pleased to have started with a second place, and I can only applaud Mathieu Biasion for the pace he has shown this weekend - he was untouchable at times. Contesting a WRC event for the first time has certainly opened my eyes, but I'm very happy with getting to the end. We're delighted.'
Hughes finished 41st overall and 2nd FSTi home. Hughes was also contesting his first event since being selected for the new MSA Rally Academy Scheme, where talented young British drivers and co-drivers receive special training to enhance their skills. The programme is being developed and managed by Robert Reid, former World Rally Champion co-driver, and is designed to give Hughes and the other selected participants thorough coaching during the next phase of their rally careers.