Stobart d'Italia Preview

Stobart d'Italia PreviewFrom Ford Press [ 17/05/2006 ].
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Youngest-ever WRC driver points scorer Matthew Wilson and the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team head to Sardinia this coming weekend for the sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Rally d’Italia Sardegna, with the aim of beating their last result of two cars in the top ten.

Rally Argentina saw 19 year-old Cumbrian Wilson become the youngest driver to score a WRC driver point and also become the youngest driver to set the fastest time on a WRC stage. Wilson finished in eighth place in the overall standings, just pipping team-mate Luis Perez Companc to the position in the final stage of the event.


The Italian round of the WRC presents a similiarly natured gravel challenge to Argentina and the Stobart WRC team is boosted by 33% for this event as Wilson and co-driver Michael Orr are joined not only by Companc, but also by the Finnish crew of Kosti Katajamaki and Timo Alanne.

Katajamaki drove with the team in February in Uddeholm Rally Sweden, finishing sixth in the overall standings so a dream result for the squad would be three Stobart Ford Focus RS WRCs in the top ten

The island of Sardinia may present the team with stages which are of similar nature to those which suited the team so well last time out, but the spectacular mountain scenery means there are big drops should anyone run wide and it is expected to be a rally where the cars will be under constant onslaught from the large rocks on the stages; it is expected to be a rally of attrition.

Rally d’Italia Sardegna is the first gravel rally in Europe and the third time the WRC has visited the location although this year the event features new stages. The rally is based in Olbia in the north of the island, and starts and finishes in holiday destination Porto Cervo, one of Europe's most expensive resorts.

It's not only Stobart WRC cars in action in Italy either. Scot Barry Clark and Brit Scott Martin come fresh from their S1600 victory in the opening round of the British Rally Championship and will be contesting both the FIA Junior World Rally Championship and the Fiesta SportingTrophy International in their GpN Ford Fiesta ST.

Rally d'Italia Sardegna runs from May 19-21. The following round of the FIA World Rally Championship is the BP Ultimate Acropolis Rally on June 2-4.

Stobart VK M-sport Ford Rally Team driver Matthew Wilson says: "I've never been to Sardinia before. I was meant to be there last year but I ended up watching the result from my hospital bed as it was a week after my big accident in Rally of Wales. I've never seen the stages before in person, only on tele but we should get a good idea on the recce."

Stobart VK M-sport Ford Rally Team driver Luis Perez Companc says: "I am looking forward to Sardinia as I am more confident with the car, every time I drive it I am learning more. Gravel is my favourite surface so it should be good for me."

Stobart VK M-sport Ford Rally Team driver Kosti Katajamaki says: "It seems like a long time since the Swedish Rally. It will be my third time in Rally Sardinia but the stages this year are totally different. I've been busy doing work for my sponsors and some driving in a Group N car which is very different from the Focus. I'm very happy to be driving in Sardinia and I'll be driving as fast as possible."

Stobart VK Rally Team driver Barry Clark says: "It was a surprise result getting the S1600 win in the Pirelli International Rally. I've never been to Sardinia before but it's great having two gravel rallies straight after each other. It's quite a change going from the S1600 to the GpN Fiesta ST as there's not as much power to pull you through the corners but I'm looking forward to it."

Stobart VK M-sport Ford Rally team principal Malcolm Wilson says: "The good thing is Rally Argentina was only two weeks ago so that event is fresh in the minds of Matthew and Luis Perez. I think both should go well in Sardinia because of that. In many ways it is very similar to the last rally; it's a sandy base like some of the stages in Argentina and there's big rocks as well. In real terms the two gravel events are probably the closest linked in the WRC in terms of conditions."