Wilson leads Stobart attack

Wilson leads Stobart attackFrom Ford Press [ 25/04/2008 ].
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Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin lead the way for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team after a successful opening day of Rally Jordan; round five of the FIA World Rally Championship. Team-mates Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud brushed of a slowish start to finish day 1 in the final point scoring position in eighth.

Unfortunately things did not fare so well for Gigi Galli/Giovanni Bernacchini who retired from today at the end of stage 6. Around two kilometres into the stage, Galli slid backwards into a stone bank which caused damage to the rear differential cooler and the exhaust. By the end of the stage this had led to his retirement due to the high temperature of the rear differential causing the component to seize. He will restart tomorrow under the SupeRally regulations.

A string of top-ten stage times saw Wilson promoted to seventh over the course of the day as he found a good rhythm from the word go with both his driving and pacenotes. Apart from a small spin on the final test in the morning’s loop of stages the 21-year-old had a clean run and will start day 2 in ideal road position.

Solberg began his Jordanian quest in a cautious manner as he set to discover the Middle Eastern roads for the first time in his career. Despite this the Norwegian closed strong, finishing the final test seventh fastest and moving his Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC07 to eighth on the leaderboard.

Last night the first WRC event in an Arab country since 1976 kicked off in Emmar South Park on the shores of the majestic Dead Sea at the fireworks-filled ceremonial start. True to Middle Eastern conditions, temperatures rose as high as 40 degrees centigrade complemented by blue skies forcing tough work on drivers who powered through 115 kilometres of competitive distance.

Today’s leg consisted of two identical loops of four stages in all directions from Rally HQ amongst the spectacular Jordan Valley region. Mahes at 20 kilometres in length was the biggest test of the day and again favoured crews running down the order as front running competitors were left to ‘sweep’ the hard surface of loose sandy gravel. The Pirelli Scorpion control tyres worked well for drivers on this difficult, abrasive surface.

Tomorrow will again offer a format of two identical loops of four stages as crews are taken further north in the Jordan Valley towards the Jordanian capital Amman. Conditions are again forecast to be hot and dry as competitors will be tested to the limit over the 110 kilometres of day 2 action.

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Gigi Galli said:
“Obviously I am very disappointed with my problem today as the rally was going quite well for me and I was starting to get a good feeling with the car. We slid on a slippy section of the stage and went backwards into a big bank of rocks and this damaged the diff cooler and I was unable to continue as the temperature rose so high; I didn’t want to cause a lot of damage. I hope the team can repair this for tomorrow as its very important for me to get back out there and learn more about this rally and this unique surface. The first loop of stages today went well for me and I was starting to find a good rhythm and getting more confidence with the car and I would like to continue with this progress tomorrow.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
“We found things difficult this morning but it is a new rally and I just can’t jump in and be very fast from the start. The surface is difficult and I need to build up my confidence here and then in turn build up my speed during the rally. We made quite a few changes to the pacenotes and hopefully this will also help with my confidence. The conditions are tricky and it’s easy to make a mistake so I will continue to concentrate and push harder when I can. I have finished today in the points and without any problems so I’m happy with that.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
“Today has been a really good start to the rally and I’m starting to feel more comfortable on these tricky stages. Apart from having a couple of minor half spins which dropped us some time, it’s all went well today and I’m pleased with our performance. The stage times have been really consistent and the only changes we have made have been to adjust our lines over some difficult crests and this worked well for the second pass. We concentrated on preserving our tyres in the second loop as it’s really easy to run wide onto the loose gravel and drop some time.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“It has been a very encouraging performance by Matthew today and he has driven well in this new event which has provided competitors with some challenging stages. He has punched in some good times and preserved both the tyres and his car and both he and Henning are comfortably in the points. It’s a shame about Gigi’s problem but he will be back out again tomorrow and he knows how important it is to get the experience of these stages and conditions.”

Day 1 Leaderboard
1. D Sordo/M Marti E Citroën C4 1h16m53.7s
2. S Loeb/D Elena F Citroën C4 +1.1s
3. J-M Latvala/M Attila FIN Ford Focus RS +8.5s
4. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Ford Focus RS +13.4s
5. C Atkinson/S Prevot AUS Subaru Impreza +1m08.0s
6. U Aava/K Sikk EE Citroën C4 +1m59.3s
7. M Wilson/S Martin GB Ford Focus RS +2m52.7s
8. H Solberg/C Menkerud N Ford Focus RS +3m22.3s
19. G Galli/G Bernacchini I Ford Focus RS +11m21.0s