Stobart's rally ends in disaster

Stobart's rally ends in disasterFrom Stobart Ford Press [ 31/08/2008 ].
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It has been an unfortunate final day of Repco Rally New Zealand with François Duval/Patrick Pivato bowing out on the penultimate stage after looking promising for a fifth place finish.



Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team-mates Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin have had another fine day to finish the 11th round of the FIA World Rally Championship in 17th position. The pair climbed back from an incredible 41st on Friday when they retired from day 1 with a transmission problem.

Twenty-one kilometres into the rally’s penultimate stage Duval left the road on a medium right-hand corner when he encountered some loose gravel. The car then became beached and the Belgian was unable to move it and was forced to retired from the event. It was an unfortunate end to what was another strong rally for Duval with the Stobart team.

The only dramas for the Belgian over the weekend came in the form of brake loss which he put down to an overuse of left-foot braking especially towards the end of some of the longer stages on Saturday. After struggling with over-steer on Friday morning Duval made antiroll bar changes in service which helped his confidence for the remainder of the event.

Wilson’s efforts over the last two days of Rally New Zealand have seen some of his best driving to date in the WRC. On today’s opening 11.23 kilometre Te Hutewai test the 21-year-old set an amazing second fastest time despite a raging battle between the top-four competitors fighting hard for the rally win.

The young Brit’s problem on day 1 occurred with five kilometres left of the 24.22 kilometre Pirongia 2 stage when he experienced gear selection issues and, as a result, the decision was made to withdraw him from the leg not to cause any further damage to his Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC07.

On an event plagued with drama and incidents the Pirelli Scorpion gravel tyre again held strong on what have been some tough days of competition. Weather was not so typical to usual Rally New Zealand conditions, with dry days throughout making loose gravel a factor and affecting front running crews who were left to ‘sweep’ the roads.

Rally New Zealand’s typically fast flowing cambered roads again treated fans to an action packed event once again based from Hamilton in the country’s north island. The event saw 18 stages over 353.04 kilometres of competitive distance covered from Friday to Sunday across some of the most picturesque scenery in the championship.

This year’s Rally New Zealand has seen one of the most dramatic WRC events in recent history where road position and team tactics have played a big part in proceedings. The next event for the Stobart squad takes crews back to tarmac where Jari-Matti Latvala will rejoin his old team for Rally de España.

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver François Duval said:
“It was a second gear corner near the end of stage 17 and we caught a little bit of loose gravel and slid off the road. The car was not damaged but it became stuck and we were unable to get it out of the ditch. We were taking no risks on this stage so it was unlucky that our rally ended this way. We were starting to set some good times and my feeling was getting better each day after such a long time out of a WRC car on gravel. The next event for me is Spain and I am looking forward to getting back on asphalt again.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
“I really enjoyed the rally this weekend but obviously we are disappointed with what happened on Friday as we would be in a great position now. Having a ‘pressure-free’ run over the last two days allowed me to drive my own race and try a few different things and we have set some great stage times in the process which I am really happy with. I have learnt a lot this weekend and I will take a lot away from our performance here. This is a fantastic rally with some amazing stages and I’m looking forward to hopefully coming back in the future.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“It has been an unfortunate end to what was looking to be another strong event for the Stobart team. François’ off was a huge disappointment after what has been a really strong drive considering his long break from gravel and I’m really surprised he went off after not putting a foot wrong all rally. This has been one of Mathew’s best performances in his career and the times he set today with everything going on at the front have been really impressive. He has also set some amazing split times over the last two days and it was good to see him setting faster times than drivers like Petter and Urmo.”

Final Leaderboard
1. S Loeb/D Elena F Citroën C4 +3h58m48.9s
2. D Sordo/M Marti E Citroën C4 +17.5s
2. M Hirvonen/J LehtinenFIN Ford Focus RS +41.5ss
4. P Solberg/P Mills N Subaru Impreza +2m48.9s
5. U Aava/K Sikk EECitroën C4 +3m30.7s
6. P-G Andersson/J Andersson SWESuzuki SX4 +7m37.4s
7. T Gardemeister/T Tuominen FINSuzuki SX4 +7m54.9s
8. F Villagra/J Perez Companc RAFord Focus RS +8m35.0s
9. H Solberg/C MenkerudN Ford Focus RS +9m15.2s
10. M Prokop/J TomanekCZE Mitsubishi Lancer +13m49.0s
17. M Wilson/S Martin GB Ford Focus RS+17m15.1s