Stobart Ready to Tackle Bulgaria's Tough Tarmac Tests The Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team will welcome a new driver to the Cumbria-based squad as it prepares for Rally Bulgaria next week. Per-Gunnar Andersson joins the Stobart M-Sport Ford...
Stobart Ready to Tackle Bulgaria's Tough Tarmac Tests
The Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team will welcome a new driver to the Cumbria-based squad as it prepares for Rally Bulgaria next week.
Per-Gunnar Andersson joins the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team as a guest driver for the seventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship along with co-driver Jonas Andersson. The 30-year-old Swede has tested the Ford Focus RS WRC twice over the past month as he bids to hit the ground running in a car and on a surface he is less than familiar with.
Bulgaria is the first asphalt WRC round since Stobart's Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin competed in Rally de Espana in 2009 and finished in seventh position, equalling their best ever result on tarmac. The young Cumbrian duo will be looking to improve their times at the new event as they tackle the first of four tarmac rounds this season in the Ford Focus RS WRC.
Regular Stobart M-Sport Ford driver crew Henning Solberg and Ilka Minor will also be competing in Bulgaria, but will swap their usual Ford Focus RS WRC for the new Ford Fiesta Super 2000. They will be entered in the Eastern European event under the Stobart M-Sport banner, but will not be nominated to score manufacturer points. Solberg will return to driving the Ford Focus RS WRC for the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team at Rally Finland in July.
Mechanics at M-Sport have made several changes to the Stobart team's Ford Focus RS WRCs ahead of the switch to Bulgaria's fast asphalt stages. The brake discs have been increased from 300mm to 370mm and, in order to accommodate the bigger brake discs, the wheels and durable Pirelli Scorpion tyres have also been extended from 15" to 18".
The springs, dampers and anti-roll bars have all been made stiffer and the suspension and steering components have changed to a tarmac spec which has helped alter the geometry of the car. As tarmac is smoother than the gravel stages of previous WRC rounds, the cars have been given approximately 30% stiffer suspension which lowers the general ride height of the car by up to 90mm. This will help to make the Ford Focus RS WRC more stable and reduce the centre of gravity on the car.
Despite being a country with a long rallying tradition, Bulgaria will make its debut as a World Rally Championship round for the first time next week. The new event is the first of four asphalt rallies this year and the combination of a challenging, compact route surrounded by stunning mountain scenery is sure to make it an exciting addition to the WRC calendar.
From 1970 -- 2001, Bulgaria was a round in the European Rally Championship and the event was held in the famous Black Sea resorts of Zlantini, Piasatzi and Albena. In 2002 the competition moved its base to the central part of South Bulgaria and now takes place in the picturesque ski resort of Borovets.
The three-day event will kick off with a ceremonial start at the Samokov Stadium on the Thursday evening. The stadium can seat a maximum capacity of 12,000 people and huge crowds are expected to attend the official opening ceremony.
The service park will be based at Dolna Banya, situated 25km from Rally HQ in Borovets. The rally comprises of 16 special stages covering 354.10km, with a spectacular selection of asphalt tests centred around the base of the Rila mountain.
Day one consists of four stages covering 118.68km based south of the service park at Dolna Banya. The opening Batak Lake stage (SS1 and SS3) is the longest of the rally at 31.77km and the last half of the tarmac stage winds round the picturesque Batak Lake. A twisty 27.57km stage beside the Belmeken Lake, rounds off the end of the morning and afternoon loop.
The second full day is the longest of the three day event at 140.90km. The opening 27.46km stage, Sestrimo, (SS5 and SS8) is based close to the Belmeken Lake that the teams had to visit on day one. Peshtera (SS6 and SS9) is a 18.13km stage based south east of the service park and Lyubnitsa (SS7 and SS10) is a stage based north, consisting of 24.86km competitive distance.
The final day of Rally Bulgaria will see WRC crews travel north to four stages covering 94.52km situated north east of Dolna Banya. The opening Muhovo stage (SS11 and SS13) is the second longest of the event at 29.53km and Slavovitsa (SS12 and SS14) is the shortest of the rally at 17.73km.
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
"It's going to be tough doing a full tarmac rally after driving on gravel every WRC round of the season so far. It might take everyone a bit of time to adjust to the new surface but the fact it is a new rally means it will not give any WRC drivers an advantage. I'm keen to beat my personal best of seventh on tarmac whilst I'm out in Bulgaria so I'm going to give it my best shot and hope that I can produce some fast times."
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver P-G Andersson said:
"I've had little experience of driving on asphalt but my plan is to find a good rhythm. However, I managed to fit in some testing M-Sport earlier this month so I'm hoping this will pay off and I'll be able to drive well on the tarmac surfaces. I feel really lucky to have been given the opportunity to drive for the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team so I will definitely make the most of it and drive to the best of my ability."
Stobart M-Sport Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"I'm delighted that P-G will be joining the team in Bulgaria next week and it will be interesting to see how he performs in a different car at a new event. This will be a very challenging rally for our drivers - not only is Rally Bulgaria a new event where neither driver will be familiar with the stages, but this is also the first tarmac rally of the year so will provide an added difficulty for the crews. On the other hand, it will provide an excellent opportunity for Matthew to try out the Ford Focus RS WRC in the first of the four all tarmac rounds in the WRC calendar this year."