04 Nov 09
Portugal's Armindo Araujo might not have had the most straightforward of journeys to FIA Title glory this year, but he got there in the end.
After a season which at times left the Mitsubishi Lancer driver feeling deflated, elated and uncertain about his position in the standings, it took an FIA court ruling in October to finally confirm his claim on the 2009 Production Car World Rally Championship.
But while his title might have been announced in an unconventional manner, there's no doubt it marked a new career high for Araujo, 32, who has achieved the most significant rally success by a Portuguese driver since 1995 when Rui Madeira won the Production Car Cup title.
In December Araujo will line up alongside fellow FIA World Rally Championship title winners Martin Prokop (J-WRC) Sebastien Loeb (WRC) and a host of other motorsport champions at the FIA prize-giving ceremony in Monaco. And at the end of his most successful season in the WRC to date, it's a crown he richly deserves.
Araujo wasn't always destined to be a rally driver. In 1995 he began his motorsport career on two wheels, tackling enduro Motocross events near his home town of Santo Tirso near Porto in Northern Portugal. He went on to take national titles with KTM before his enthusiasm for rally was sparked by a national event which passed by his front door. In 2000 he switched from two to four wheels, initially in a Renault Clio, but later in a Citroen Saxo with which he won two national driver challenges in 2000 and 2001.
He progressed to a Saxo Kit Car in 2002, winning the national two-wheel drive championship, and then switched to a Group N to win the class in the Portuguese championship in 2003 and 2004. He won the national title outright in 2005 and 2006, before making the step up to the world stage and the P-WRC in 2007.
That first year, in a Mitsubishi Motors Portugal backed Lancer Evo IX, he finished three of the six rallies he started, achieving a best P-WRC placing of fourth on Rally Sweden. He rounded off a solid debut Production season 14th in the series on a total of 10 points.
In 2008 he improved. Now driving a Lancer Evo IX prepared by Ralliart Italy, he finished every event he started and made the Production podium on the Acropolis Rally of Greece. He ended the year ninth in the standings, on a total of 14 points.