BIRMINGHAM, England, January 11, 2001 - A fleet of Ford Puma rally cars will tackle this season's new FIA Super 1600 Championship, enabling several exciting young drivers to bridge the gap between national and world championship competition for...
BIRMINGHAM, England, January 11, 2001 - A fleet of Ford Puma rally cars will tackle this season's new FIA Super 1600 Championship, enabling several exciting young drivers to bridge the gap between national and world championship competition for the first time - it was revealed at the Autosport International Show today (Thursday).
The introduction of the new category by the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile), is widely regarded as a Junior World Championship, and is designed to provide private rally drivers with an opportunity to display their talents to a wider audience by competing on selected World Rally Championship events alongside, but not against the regular world championship contenders. Direct manufacturer entries are forbidden, so cars must be prepared and run by private teams and engine size is restricted to 1600cc.
Auto-Meca, based at Annecy in eastern France, will run three of the front-wheel drive, 1600cc Puma machines on the six-round series and Italian firm Astra will also run a Puma. The Auto-Meca run cars will be driven by Patrick Magaud, François Duval and Benoît Rousselot while Alejandro Galanti will be behind the wheel of the Astra-prepared car. The championship presents the challenge of three asphalt rallies (Catalunya, Sanremo and Tour of Corsica) and three gravel events (Acropolis, Finland and Great Britain).
Forty-two-year-old Magaud is a highly experienced driver who is an asphalt specialist. The Frenchman has built up a strong relationship with Ford in recent years, carrying out much development work on the Puma Kit Car on world championship rallies. Magaud is also an official Ford driver for 2001 in Britain, campaigning a Puma in the Formula Rally series.
Frenchman Rousselot, 27, already has a good working relationship with Auto-Meca. He was highly impressive at the wheel of their Renault Maxi Megane in last year's French Championship. He held second place for much of the season, headed only by the four-wheel drive car of Philippe Bugalski, before eventually finishing third. He also finished 14th on his first world championship event in Corsica.
Duval is the youngest of the Auto-Meca trio at just 20. The Belgian began his motorsport career in karting in 1992 and tackled his first rally in 1999, making an instant impression by winning the Challenge Citroen Saxo in Belgium. Last season he competed in the Belgian Championship, finishing fourth on the Circuit des Ardennes, Rallye des Hautes Fagnes, Rallye de Wallonie and Omloop van Vlaanderen. This year he will also drive an official Ford-entered Puma on three rounds of the Belgian Championship - the Boucles de Spa, Ypres and Condroz rallies.
Galanti, just 21, is from Paraguay. He began his rallying career in 1996 and success came quickly, winning his national title in 1998 and also claiming the national rallysprint title in the same season. Last season he finished in second place in the South American Rally Championship at the wheel of a Toyota Celica. Martin Whitaker, European Director of Ford Racing, has given the Super 1600 series his full backing. "It's a very exciting new development and we are giving our full support to drivers and teams taking part. It will allow potential world rally drivers to learn world rally events so they arrive in the championship with key experience and as such will provide a platform for really new talent to shine," he said.