Robert Barrable’s co-driver Stuart Loudon has revealed that their podium finish on last week’s Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally could lead to more appearances in this year’s FIA European Rally Championship.
The Tunnock’s-backed team-mates are embarking on a WRC 2 campaign in 2014 and used the Circuit to give Irishman Barrable the chance to compete in front of his home fans and sponsors.
But after they finished third following a thrilling battle for position with Sepp Wiegand and Frank Christian, Loudon said an outing on the Geko Ypres Rally in June in their Ford Fiesta R5 is a strong possibility with other events under consideration.
“We hope now to be in Ypres next, that’s as far as our plans go,” said Scotsman Loudon. “We had hoped at the start of the year to be doing seven rounds of the world championship but now we are looking to do some mixing and matching, doing a couple of ERC events and a couple of less WRC events. This has been a great start to an ERC campaign if you like but I don’t see us doing many more than two or three more events. Barum [Czech Rally Zlín] is a favourite of ours after the last time. We really, really like that rally. We feel we worked very well on the stages two years ago in the Super 2000 [car] and we’d love to go back there this year [in the R5] but we’ll have to wait and see what the finances are like.”
Barrable and Loudon were on course for second place with two stages remaining but ultimately had to settle for second behind their German rivals. “We’re disappointed not to be second but pleased to be third. We started off this morning in second place and we knew it would be a tough job to keep Sepp behind us. We were doing a good job this morning. We kept on pushing and pushing because Sepp was pushing us that hard. Unfortunately on the second to last stage the tyres started to go off a little bit and we exited stage left through a gate, which thankfully had already been opened by a competitor on the previous run of that stage. We lost eight or 10 seconds in the field but we are very pleased to be third.”
Robert Barrable’s third-place finish on the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally was a career-best for the 26-year-old Dublin ace.
Having finished fifth overall on Barum Czech Rally Zlín in 2012 in a ŠKODA Fabia S2000, the Irishman’s third place in Belfast last weekend was his best to date on an FIA European Rally Championship event.
“This year’s Circuit of Ireland was a really enjoyable event and I’m delighted to have finished third,” said the Tunnock’s World Rally Team driver. “An overshoot on the penultimate stage ultimately cost us second place, but it was our drive through Hamiltons Folly on Friday that cost us the most amount of time. We just couldn’t find a rhythm in that stage and we lost forty seconds over the two runs, which was a shame.
“Saturday’s stages suited us a lot better. The pace was fairly hot, but we were able to keep Sepp Wiegand behind us until I just lost concentration for a split second, overshot a junction and lost around twelve seconds turning the car around in a field. Not to worry, we’ll get him next time! Overall, it was a great event and we’re very pleased with our performance.”
Barrable and co-driver Stuart Loudon are now considering further ERC appearances in their Ford Fiesta R5.
British driver Alex Parpottas said he was “over the moon” after finishing in second place on his FIA ERC Junior Championship debut on the Discover Northern Ireland Circuit of Ireland Rally.
The 20-year-old university student had never contested an international-level event before but shrugged off his lack of experience to claim the runner-up spot on the asphalt showcase.
Parpottas, who was competing with new American co-driver Alex Kihurani for the first time, drove without error in his self-run Ford Fiesta R2.
“It’s my first ERC Junior event and my first international event and only the second rally we’ve made our pacenotes for,” Parpottas said at the finish in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter. “It’s really difficult for us because the pace is incredible so to finish in second place is brilliant. It was difficult this afternoon because I had to find the balance between not going too slowly but not going too fast either. We managed to find that but the last stage I really, really started getting worried trying to get the car to the finish. That was the plan all along and I’m really glad. I’m over the moon and I can’t tell you how happy I am.”
Jan Černý scored his second ERC Junior win of 2014 with Petter Kristiansen third behind Parpottas.