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Finlay Retson enjoyed an impressive asphalt debut in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta R2, taking sixth place in the Junior British Rally Championship (JBRC) at the West Cork Rally (16/17 March) in Ireland last weekend.

The 18-year-old from Blairgowrie would use his brand new Fiesta on a sealed surface for the very first time, contesting the Clonakilty based event which offered over 200 kilometres and fifteen stages of flat out driving over two-days on the closed public roads near to the town.

Retson’s sixth spot sees him joint first Fiesta in the standings and in the thick of the battle for a prize fund worth 60,000 Euros towards a 2020 campaign in the Junior World Rally Championship thanks to M-Sport Poland and Pirelli.

After a confidence-boosting result at the opening round of the series in Wales last month, Retson and new co-driver Richard Crozier would head across the Irish Sea in the one-litre EcoBoost Ford Fiesta for the first time and would welcome backing by lubricants giant Castrol for the remainder of the season.

In 2018, Retson scored his maiden Cadet Cup victory overseas at the Ulster Rally in Antrim but would head to the southern Irish lanes for his debut in the new machine.

Storm-like conditions greeted competitors on Saturday morning meaning the already difficult stages would turn even more treacherous and unforgiving for the competitors. With stages following the coastline along the Atlantic, standing water and poor visibility made the going tougher than usual and Retson would need to acclimatise quickly to the car on its new surface.

Nine stages made up the opening day and after taking a few stages to get used to the feel of the Fiesta on Tarmac, by the sixth test Retson had grabbed sixth JBRC and first Fiesta. As conditions dried in the high winds, the pace would increase and he would battle hard over the closing tests of the day, only dropping to seventh and second Fiesta at the end of the leg.

Day two consisted of a short, six-stage blast but would still offer 89 kilometres of competitive driving. Stage cancellations did nothing to boost his confidence in the newly arrived sunshine, and with stages passing by, Retson was running out of chances to regain any lost time.

Eager to ensure his championship chances are maximised, Retson decided to aim for a solid finish rather than risk a result and duly brought the Ford home in a respectable sixth in the JBRC category and second Fiesta home.

Retson was happy with the result and his strong showing on his tarmac debut in the car.

“It was never going to be easy to come over here and just be out front,” says Retson.

“No one has really driven the 2019 specification cars on Irish lanes before so we had to find our own settings and I had to find what driving style suited that set-up best. It was undoubtedly a very steep learning curve but the main thing is we stayed out of trouble and scored more valuable points for the season. It’s a long year so every point certainly counts at this stage”.

Retson enjoyed the experience of competing in southern Ireland and is looking forward to the gravel of the next round on the calendar.

“The car is just fantastic and I`m learning something new with every mile I drive it. I’m now focusing on the Pirelli International Rally next month and as that is on gravel I have a bit better understanding of the car and the pace required. But the challenge will be finding a pace that balances a good result with a good finish. Its been a great start to the season so I’m really looking to continue that form heading into round three.”

Retson is supported by DJR Services, JSR Services – Blairgowrie Ltd, G S Robertson Ltd, Watermans Solicitors, Rally Travel, Castrol, Kevin Donachie Electricians, West Ranga Properties, Robert Morton Joiners & Contractors, Vital Equipment Limited, Andrew Wood Motorsport, The Campervan Company, and Results Gym Forfar.

Image Credits: Jakob Ebrey Photography

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