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London based rally driver Ruairi Bell ensured he is still in with a chance of scooping a 60,000 Euro prize fund from M-Sport and Pirelli towards a campaign in the 2020 Junior World Rally Championship (JWRC), with fourth place in the Junior British Rally Championship (JBRC) at last weekend’s Today’s Ulster Rally (17th August).

At just 19 years old, Bell returned a mature performance behind the wheel of his Marex Spectron and Protec backed M-Sport Fiesta R2T, to ensure he takes the fight for the JWRC prize to the final round of the series in Scotland next month.

Along with reigning British Rally Championship co-driver Darren Garrod, Bell has enjoyed a prosperous year in the sport, mixing a season in the JBRC with outings in the Peugeot Iberica Cup and selected events in the FIA World Rally Championship to gain experience for the future.

Bagging a WRC class win at Rally Portugal is arguably the highlight of his season so far, however a second place at the formidable Renties Ypres Rally in June saw the youngster take his maiden JBRC podium and vault him firmly into the chase for the JWRC prize fund.

With a strong performance on the closed public roads of West Cork in Southern Ireland earlier this year, Bell would head to the Newry based Ulster Rally in a buoyant mood and hoping for a solid result to maintain his lead of the M-Sport Fiesta standings.

Over 93 miles of special stages, packed into one full-on day would be on offer to crews with three stages repeated three times making up the route. The narrow, twisty and bumpy lanes south of Belfast have caught out many leading drivers in the past and the opening loop of stages this time around would be no different.

With damp conditions and standing water lining the stages, many top crews fell foul of the early stages. Bell elected to ensure he could get accustomed to the stages which he would be visiting for the very first time and took an understandably cautious approach to the opening stage of the rally.

However, by the third test, he would be knocking on the door of the top three JBRC crews in terms of stage times and sat comfortably in fifth spot. With the second pass of the stages seeing a much drier run, Bell settled back into the Fiesta perfectly, moving to fourth in the Junior category and second Fiesta.

A third quickest time over the final eight-mile blast firmed up his position and thanks to playing the JBRC “Joker” which offered additional bonus points, Bell now heads to the final round of the series locked in a battle for the JWRC prize.

“I always knew this weekend would be tough, but in a very different way from Ypres” said Bell at the finish.

“The roads here are amazingly technical and you really need to be inch perfect. It was a steep learning curve, but we knew that there wouldn’t be anything to be gained by going all out for a top result, especially as the conditions were so unpredictable. The Fiesta championship was the main focus and now we head to the last round with a great chance of winning. There is still plenty to do, but I`m really looking forward to heading to Scotland and fighting for the win”.

The final round of the British Rally Championship takes place in Dalbeattie in the South West of Scotland on 14th September. The event joins the BRC for the first time and offers over 70 miles of gravel stages in the Dumfries and Galloway forests.

Image credits: Jakob Ebrey Photohraphy

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