Stobart complete Mexican marathon

Stobart complete Mexican marathonFrom Stobart Ford Press [ 07/03/2010 ].
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The Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team collected a double points finish in the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship after an all-action weekend at Rally Mexico.

Henning Solberg led the way for the Cumbrian squad as he and co-driver Ilka Minor sailed to a sixth place finish behind the two BP Ford Abu Dhabi Ford Focus RS WRCs crews. Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin recovered to grab manufacturer points for the team under SuperRally rules after crashing out of the event on Saturday morning.

Rally Mexico officially began with an impressively colourful and noisy ceremonial start in the historic town of Guanajuato on Thursday evening, with huge crowds packing the narrow streets to catch a glimpse of the World Rally Championship stars.

The first full day of action on Friday saw crews take on 137.24km of competitive distance over nine stages, with a mixture of high-altitude runs on the gravel of the Mexican countryside and short tarmac street stages in the host town León.

The conditions on the stages proved to be testing for many of the Ford Focus RS WRC crews, with the combination of big jumps and rocks on the route taking a heavy toll as the day progressed. However, Stobart drivers Henning Solberg and Matthew Wilson managed to avoid major trouble and made steady progress to end the first leg in seventh and eighth overall, just behind the factory Ford cars in fifth and sixth.

Day two, the longest of the event, featured 158.82km of competitive distance split over another nine tests. The first stage of the day, which was the longest of the event, was full of drama. The 29.90km SS10 Ibarrilla’s slippery gravel surface caught out three of the top ten WRC crews and forced them to retire. Stobart’s Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin were among them, sliding from the road and becoming beached on a pile of large rocks. It was a tough break for the Cumbrian pair and their challenge was brought to a halt prematurely after an encouraging start.

Stobart team-mates Henning Solberg and Ilka Minor enjoyed more luck, surviving the carnage on the first test and going on to be among the fastest Ford Focus RS WRC runners throughout the day. They clocked in a superb second-fastest time on the 23.27km SS11 Duarte, and then a third fastest time on the following SS12 Derramadero during the morning loop. Then despite having to drive around brake problems pushed on to take another to top-three spots in the afternoon to leave them placed sixth overall, 25.3sec behind Rally Sweden winner Mikko Hirvonen at the end of day two.

The final leg of Rally Mexico was truncated after organisers cancelled the 7.05km SS20 Sauz Seco for safety reasons. However, that still left three very challenging stages totalling 51.49km of competitive distance for crews to negotiate.

Stobart’s Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin rejoined the fray under SuperRally rules aiming to use the remaining stages as an opportunity to develop thee setting on their Ford Focus RS WRC and enjoyed a trouble-free run to the finish. Deciding it was unlikely they could close the gap on Hirvonen in fifth as the Finn fought to increase his championship points tally, Henning Solberg and Ilka Minor took no risks as they sought to consolidate their sixth spot after their pacy performance the previous day.

That meant the Stobart M-Sport Ford team leaves Rally Mexico with a healthy tally of 28 manufacturer points after two rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship 2010.

Other rally news
BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala finished Rally Mexico in fourth and fifth positions overall. It was a frustrating rally for the Ford factory team drivers, who had opened the season in scintillating form at Rally Sweden but couldn’t find the same stage-winning pace in the high-altitude plains around León.

Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team driver Federico Villagra picked up a points finish on his first WRC event of the 2010 season. The multiple Argentine Rally Championship-winner finished seventh overall after a clean run through the demanding stages of Rally Mexico.

The Monster World Rally Team Ford Focus RS WRC missed out on a points finish at their first WRC event after crashing out of the rally on SS10 Ibarrilla on Saturday morning. However, US star Ken Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino were back in action under SuperRally rules on Sunday and completed the day’s three stages to gain valuable seat time ahead of their next WRC appearance at Rally Turkey.

Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
“I am very pleased at how it has gone here in Mexico, I really enjoyed this rally. It was hard but we proved we could be very fast all day on Saturday. The car has been perfect and our notes are working well so there is not much we could have done better. If we can keep it the same for Jordan I think we can be really quick there too.”

Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
“Obviously we’re frustrated at what happened on Saturday because we had been going well and this was an event we thought we could take a really good result from. We went back out today [Sunday] and tried a few different things with our setup. It was quite a bit better but it’s always disappointing to be SuperRallying, so we’re looking ahead to see what we can do when we get to the next round in Jordan.”

Stobart M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“The Stobart team has picked up another good haul of points at a very difficult event. Henning turned in a very good performance throughout the whole weekend. His four top-three times on Saturday was particularly impressive and I hope he can continue producing that kind of form over the rest of the season. Matthew will be disappointed to have had his rally cut short on Saturday as he’s not made many mistakes over the past year, but he will dust himself off and look to get back among the points at Rally Jordan.”

Final Leaderboard
1. S Loeb/D Elena FRA Citroen C4 3h42min41.7sec
2. P Solberg/P Mills NOR Citroen C4S +24.2sec
3. Ogier/J Ingrassa FRA Citroen C4 +25.3sec
4. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Ford Focus RS +1m47.5sec
5. J-M Latvala/M Anttila FIN Ford Focus RS +2m15.1sec
6. H Solberg/I Minor NOR Ford Focus RS +2m48.0sec
7. F Villagra/Pérez Companc ARG Ford Focus RS +10m13.4sec
8. X Pons/A Haro SPA Ford Fiesta S2000 +18m44.4sec
9. M Prokop/J Tomanek CZE Ford Fiesta S2000 +19m.02.0sec
10. A Araújo/R Miguel POR Mitsubishi Lancer +21m.32.5sec
16. M Wilson/Scott Martin GBR Ford Focus RS +43m17.2sec