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London based Ruairi Bell continued his sensational season behind the wheel by becoming the first British driver and youngest ever winner of a Peugeot Iberica Cup round at last weekend’s FIA World Rally Championship, RallyRACC Catalunya – Costa Daurada (24-27 October).

Bell stormed into the lead of the ultra-competitive single-make championship on the penultimate counting stage of the Cup to take victory and in the process, became the first winner of a round of the popular series that hasn’t hailed from either Portugal or Spain.

Bell would then go on to contest the remainder of the three-day WRC qualifier, recovering from a time zapping puncture to take third in the RC4 class in his Protec and Marex Spectron backed Peugeot 208 R2.

The 19-year-old ace has enjoyed a textbook year in the sport, mounting an assault on both the Iberica Cup and the Junior British Rally Championship in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta R2T. Despite his significant lack of experience of the events in each championship, Bell has performed remarkably to stamp his name on more than one winner’s trophy this season.

Along with co-driver Darren Garrod, Bell secured the inaugural M-Sport/Pirelli Fiesta title within the British Rally Championship which saw him net a prize fund of 60,000 towards an FIA Junior World Rally Championship campaign. Impressive performances in the Iberica Cup had also emerged, but only manged to finish outside of the podium spots all season.

The Iberica Cup would be contested over the opening six stages of the event, but Bell elected to tackle the full 17 stages of the World Rally Championship. He is no stranger to the top-flight series, having won his class at Rally Portugal earlier in the year but Bell would be hunting for a top result in the Iberica Cup to boot.

RallyRACC offers a unique twist in its format thanks to the opening day taking place on gravel, whilst legs two and three switches to asphalt and Bell stopped the clocks just 10 seconds down on the leader through the opening gravel test. However, such is the close competition of the series, that would leave him down in sixth and plenty of work to do to climb back up the leader board over the next counting five stages.

A string of top-three times followed and with one stage to go, Bell snatched the lead of the Cup. A storming time over the final test saw him secure victory by 29 seconds from his nearest rival in a superb drive from the young ace.

He wouldn’t have time to celebrate, however, as the rally would continue for a further two days in the Spanish mountains across fast and flowing asphalt roads. Bell duly picked up where he left off and whilst there was a host of additional contenders to battle against, he continued to set top times in his Peugeot.

Sadly, a puncture on the ninth stage lost him over three minutes but such was his performance, he retained third despite the time loss and crossed the finish ramp in Salou with a class podium to his name.

“It’s been a mega weekend and to win the Iberica Cup round goes down as one of the best results I’ve had in my career” said Bell.

“Effectively I’ve come to Spain and beat the locals on home soil on probably one of the toughest rounds of the Cup. It hasn’t been easy adapting to the Peugeot after driving the Fiesta in Wales [Rally GB] but I felt very comfortable from the first stage and really felt I could push. It’s a real honour to be the first Brit to win and the youngest winner of a round too”.

He was also elated with his World Championship result.

“I haven’t really had time to enjoy the Cup win as I had to knuckle straight down and concentrate on the rest of the rally. It was a hard two days on the asphalt and the puncture really set us back on Saturday. It’s easy to say ‘what if’ but I think we could have grabbed the class win as well, but I`m still really pleased with the result. World Championship events are as tough as they get so the more mileage and experience at this level I get, the better it will be for the future.

Thanks must go once again to British Rally Champion Matt Edwards for all his coaching assistance and the invaluable backing of my sponsors Protec and Marex Spectron. The hard work is certainly beginning to pay off.”.

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