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Hacked by prem7pun!sherFrom Ford Press [ 01/04/2007 ].
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The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team has had another successful outing scoring four manufacturer points, taking their total to 23 after Vodafone Rally de Portugal, round five of the World Rally Championship.

It’s been a Stobart-filled leaderboard all weekend with Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila eventually coming home in sixth, while Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud picked up one manufacturer point finishing in ninth.

Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr showed late pace to pass local driver Armindo Araujo and finish the rally in a quality twelfth position.

Leg 3 treated the drivers with some of the best road and weather conditions of the event. Crews tackled 81.39 kilometres of competitive route on the final day wrapping it up under the watchful eye of 20,000 plus spectators in the purpose build Algarve Stadium super special stage.

Running through the mountainous region of the beautiful Algarve coastline, Rally de Portugal had it all; from sunshine and blue skies to torrential down-pours and mud-baths as crews tackled the 357.1 kilometres of total competitive distance.

With the changing conditions, tyre choice became a major factor in the rally with many competitors getting caught out by incorrect compound decisions. Deep, thick mud on day two completely changed the contrast of this rally which began and eventually finished on a dusty gravel surface.

Rough sections among the fast narrow stages took their toll on several top competitors with numerous retirements and big accidents over the three days. It was no problem for the Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC06 however, which made it through the entire event with only minor issues.

Solberg and Menkerud improved enormously over the event, at one stage lying as high as seventh, until clutch problems and a front right puncture on the penultimate stage relegated them back to ninth. The Norwegian pair showed they had the pace as they continue to learn the ways of gravel rallying.

Finns Latvala and Anttila showed tremendous skill and progress setting top five stage times in all of the Leg 3 tests. It was a matured display by Latvala who gathered three driver points taking his 2007 tally to nine, putting him eighth overall in the drivers’ championship after five events. This is the third event Latvala has scored points for both drivers and manufacturer standings.

Wilson and Orr developed their rally experience, showing great form, finishing the final proper stage in ninth position just a small margin away from stage winner Gronholm. It was a tough beginning for the 20-year-old who struggled with punctures and intercom issues but bounced back enjoying the final day’s rallying showing competitive pace.

All crews have improved their confidence with the car and the extra rough gravel mileage will help as the team move on to round six, Rally Argentina, at the beginning of May.

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
“We found a good setting today for the second loop of stages and the surface on these stages is more like Argentina, so at least we have a good idea of what set-up to start the rally with. I was disappointed with our problem on the last stage as we were challenging for seventh position and now end up ninth. Generally, this event has been quite difficult for me but again it is important that we got to the finish and got more experience of the car on gravel. It will still take some more time for me to be comfortable and confident and be able to push harder for some good stage times. We will keep trying and I won’t give up.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:
“The car has performed really well this rally and I think I have improved a lot each day. Today I was actually trying to drive slower than yesterday and we were setting better times, I think we were pushing too hard then and over-driving the car but today the notes and everything just worked. I found a good balance to drive safely today because I had no reason to push and I am very happy to finish in the top six. I enjoyed this rally very much and hopefully we can continue this speed and perhaps go faster in future rallies.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
“The stages today were really good and obviously I was pushing hard to get ahead of Araujo. Now I have woken up and am starting to realise exactly what the car can do. I’m frustrated about what happened on Saturday and I know I should have used the grip more; but today was really good and I’m much happier now on this surface. It has helped my confidence for Argentina as we finished the rally on a high, catching and passing Araujo on the last stage and its really good for me to finish the rally with my best stage of the weekend.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“It has been another good performance from the team and especially from Jari. His times were great and he would definitely have been challenging Sordo if he didn’t have those problems on Friday. Both nominated crews scored manufacturer points and we have increased our margin over the OMV team. It’s been a good solid performance from Matt and he was able to put the top local driver under pressure today, while moving up a spot. It’s been good for everyone to finish and get more gravel experience as we head to Argentina and Sardinia.”