Duval and Galli in the top six

Duval and Galli in the top sixFrom Ford Press [ 26/01/2008 ].
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Day three of Rallye Monte-Carlo has proved to be another top one for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team with both its nominated point scoring drivers inside the top-six overall.

François Duval/Eddy Chevailler are still right in the fight for a podium as they sit just 20 seconds behind Australian Chris Atkinson while Gigi Galli/Giovanni Bernacchini occupy sixth overall with a raft of consistency over the day.

For the remaining two Stobart crews it has also been a pleasing day with Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud one place from the points in ninth and Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin just one spot from an opening round top-ten finish.

Today’s route comprised of six special stages to the north west of Rally HQ totalling 133 kilometres of competitive stage action. Mild temperatures meant ice still played a pivotal role in proceedings but, with blue skies, the afternoon loop of stages cleared up in favour of competitors.

Of the original 47 rally entries 43 restarted this morning hitting the 19.37 kilometre Labatie D’Andaure-Lalouvesc test just after 07:30. Visibility levels were low early on with a lack of light in the morning hours and the presence of a small amount of mist.

Duval starred in today’s Stobart show setting top-three fastest stage times on every occasion bar the opening test. The Belgian driver was in a fierce battle for third all day as he continued to fine-tune the setup of his Focus RS which, over the day, progressively increased his speed on the French tarmac.

Needing a wake-up call after an average night’s sleep, Galli leapt into gear and continually set impressive stage times over the afternoon. The Italian is still very much familiarising himself with the car but has been very positive in the fact he is learning a great deal every competitive kilometre covered.

Solberg had a steady day but couldn’t quite find the speed which yesterday rewarded him with a sixth fastest time. The Norwegian will now head into tomorrow’s final day still with a chance of scoring points in the drivers’ championship.

Wilson had a far more convincing day today after a slowish start on the opening test; he pushed on to set some improved times from the previous two days. The 20-year-old Brit has been using the event to get used to the evolution Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC07 and familiarise himself with his new co-driver.

Tomorrow sees the final day to this epic opening round of the 2008 FIA World Rally Championship season. The event will conclude as all crews race through the famous Col de Turini stage followed by the Monaco Circuit, a 2.7 kilometre time-pursuit over sections of the famed Monaco Grand Prix circuit.

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Gigi Galli said:
“I found the stages difficult this morning as the temperatures were low and the roads very slippery. It was better for me to slow down and be careful and not make any mistakes. The afternoon was better though and the car and tyres and me were working much better on the dryer roads. But still for me the plan is to finish this rally and come away with as much experience of this car as possible.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver François Duval said:
“Today has went well and my feeling of the car has improved a lot and the slower stages feel really good; I think we can still improve on the fast sections. We are getting more used to the car every stage but I still think we need to be careful tomorrow. The gap ahead to Atkinson is too much for me to catch as the conditions on the stages tomorrow are likely to be tricky, especially if you are pushing.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
“We lost some time this morning as I didn’t have a good level of confidence and the feeling with the car wasn’t perfect. We made some changes in service and the second loop of stages were much better; but I still don’t have as much experience as the other drivers on tarmac and this is something I must remember. I am looking forward to the famous stages tomorrow but still concentrating on not making any mistakes.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
“I have really enjoyed today and I finished in quite a good mood. I am getting more and more confident each stage and this means I am starting to use the car and tyres much better. We are learning to keep more heat in the tyres in the damp and dirty conditions. I’m looking forward to the stages tomorrow and I think they will throw up some surprises of a different nature.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“It has been another great drama-free day for the Stobart team and especially for the point scoring crews. At the end of the day François is in a strong position to challenge for a podium finish tomorrow. It has been a good performance from Henning and Matthew and now we have four Stobart cars in the top eleven. None of the cars have had any problem either which is very positive.”

Leaderboard after Day 3
1. S Loeb/D Elena F Citroen C4 2h50m38.8sec
2. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Ford Focus RS +2m10.6sec
3. C Atkinson/S Prevot AUS Subaru Impreza +3m02.6sec
4. F Duval/E Chevailler B Ford Focus RS +3m22.7sec
5. P Solberg/P Mills N Subaru Impreza +4m11.8sec
6. G Galli/G Bernacchini I Ford Focus RS +7m39.7sec
7. J Cuoq/P Janvier F Peugeot 307 +8m19.7sec
8. P G Andersson/J Andersson S Suzuki SX4 +9m31.8sec
9. H Solberg/C Menkerud N Ford Focus RS +11m17.0sec
10. T Gardemeister/T Tuominen FIN Suzuki SX4 +11m23.4sec
11. M Wilson/S Martin GB Ford Focus RS +11m43.6sec