Fiesta S2000 propels Dutchman into the points
Dennis Kuipers (24) is the first Dutch driver since 1995 to score WRC driver points in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) this weekend in his Ford Fiesta Super 2000, finishing in a credible ninth position overall and winner
of Group N and the S2000 category.
Thousands of enthusiastic fans flocked to the historic Sultanahment Square in the centre of Istanbul on Thursday evening to watch the Ceremonial Start of the sixth Rally Turkey. Several Turkish Government officials, including the State Minister for Sport, were in attendance before the drivers returned by ferry across the Bosphorus Strait to Rally HQ in Pendik.
The newly located event based in the Asian side of Istanbul included 354 km of competitive stage distance over 23 speed tests. The special stages varied from fast, wide and smooth to tight, twisty and rough; but the predominantly gravel route contained almost 50 km of asphalt.
Day 1 consisted of a series of nine short stages over 98.43 km and Dutchman Dennis Kuipers, who was contesting his first event of an eight round campaign, encountered no major difficulties, proving that he was getting to grips with the S2000 rally car. The young Dutchman finished the day in 14th position overall, leading the S2000 class.
Competing alongside Kuipers and his Belgian co-driver Fred Miclotte was Yagiz Avci, the reigning Turkish Rally champion who was flying the flag for Castrol Ford Team Turkiye. The 26-year-old has an excellent track record in the Turkish Rally Championship, but struggled with intercom problems on the opening stage, resulting in the Turk missing a pacenote and damaging the left rear suspension. Despite this, he was able to nurse his car to the end of the opening stage, where he was then forced to retire after assessing the damage to his S2000.
The second full day started in sunny conditions approximately 60 km north of Rally HQ, where 37 of the 40 original entrants tackled two 72.91 km loops of competitive stage distance. This was the toughest of the three-day event as it included the longest stage of the rally and six of the eight tests contained both gravel and asphalt surfaces.
Yagiz Avci returned to the rally on Day 2 under SupeRally regulations where he went on to produce some impressive times in the rally's toughest stages. The Turkish champion reported slight difficulties with the handbrake on hairpins, so the rear differential release was bled during the morning service.
Kuipers struggled with the slippery surfaces that resulted from the rain on Stage 11, but his pace gradually increased as he settled into driving the Ford Fiesta S2000 and, after a good performance in Stage 13, the longest stage in the rally, the 24-year-old moved up into an impressive tenth position.
A heavy downpour of rain on Saturday evening meant that the first two stages of Day 3 comprising of 38.08 km of stages were cancelled due to extremely muddy conditions. Kuipers and Avci produced a series of quick times in the one remaining morning stage of 19.22 km.
Stage 21 was to throw in a bit of a wildcard for Kuipers, who hit Dani Sordo's car, which had stopped on the side of the stage. The Dutchman clipped the stranded Citroen and damaged the front bumper and wing of his S2000. He lost no time as a result and went on to finish in a deserving ninth position overall, the first finisher in a non-WRC car. Avci had no such issues, setting a storming time on Stage 22 as the fastest driver not in a WRC car. He completed the rally in 28th position overall and is currently leading the Turkish Rally Championship.
Dennis Kuipers said:
"It has been very hard today, especially the last stage. I was a bit worried when I clipped Dani [Sordo's car] in Stage 21, as I thought I had damaged my car; fortunately it didn't lose me any time. I am really pleased with my overall result and the [Ford Fiesta] Super 2000 is a fantastic car. Everything went really well -- I'm delighted."
Yagiz Avci said:
"In the first day we made a pacenote mistake, which was very annoying, but the other two days were very nice. For us, each day counts as a separate championship in Turkey and I won the last two days in the national category, so I am very happy with that. I was very confident driving the car, it is very easy to drive and the Fiesta Super 2000 has so much potential. I think M-Sport has done a very good job with the cars -- I am very happy with my results."
M-Sport Managing Director Malcolm Wilson said:
"The success of this particular car driven in Turkey by Dennis [Kuipers] is so impressive -- it's won in Monte Carlo, Mexico, Jordan and has now taken the S2000 victory in Turkey. Dennis had very little experience of driving the Ford Fiesta Super 2000 before Turkey so it's remarkable that he's managed to finished today in ninth position overall."