Blackheath rally driver Ruairi Bell believes there is “more to come” this season after taking the Junior win and second in class at a treacherous Rallye Serras de Fafe e Felgueiras (28/29 February) in Portugal at the weekend.
Bell, who is contesting the FIA Junior World Rally Championship, overcame torrential rain and thick mud across the soft surface of the Portuguese gravel to secure the category win, giving a confidence boost to his JWRC campaign which continues in Sardinia in June.
Having dovetailed a Junior British Rally Championship and Peugeot Iberica Cup campaign last season, victory at home in the Fiesta Trophy saw Bell scoop a €60,000 prize towards the JWRC thanks to M-Sport and Pirelli and he would elect to contest the coveted five-round series in 2020.
Bell and co-driver Darren Garrod would head to Portugal fresh from a solid result at the JWRC opener in Sweden last month, after overcoming a time-zapping puncture to secure seventh spot on his debut. The weekend’s aim would be primarily to gain seat time outside of the championship and obtain further experience of the Fiesta’s characteristics, only possible thanks to a three-month break in between JWRC rounds.
The London based ace is no stranger to the tricky surface adorning the Fafe countryside after contesting the event as part of the Peugeot Cup in 2019. However, he would return to the event in 2020 equipped with the latest generation M-Sport Ford Fiesta R2T backed by Protec and Marex Spectron, as used in his Junior WRC assault.
Over 132 kilometres of special stage action lay ahead with three tests opening proceedings on Friday evening, including a crowd-pleasing blast around the streets of Fafe. Bell immediately stamped his authority on the leader board, setting third and second fastest times to end the opening leg second in class and leading Junior despite going head to head with rapid locals all eager to make their mark on home soil.
The final test saw Bell lose out on the class win by just a handful of seconds, but would nevertheless secure the Junior victory and valuable mileage for his forthcoming Junior WRC campaign.
“I’m pleased with that result” remarked Bell.
“Of course, it would have been nice to have taken the class win but I was rarely out of the top three times all weekend long and that in itself is a positive result against the local drivers here. We came for seat time and experience of different surfaces ahead of Sardinia and we certainly had most conditions thrown at us during the weekend. The pace was probably better than we thought which is just down to time in the car and there is definitely more to come from me this season in the JWRC. The focus now is on the next round and making sure we can secure a good result in the championship”.
Bell is supported by Protec Temporary Protection, Marex Spectron, Boolers Wealth Management Ltd, Marina Racewear and MSAR Motorsport.
Photos by Charly Lopez
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