Latvala fights back into points The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team has come back fighting in leg 2 with Finnish crew Jari-Matti Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila sitting on two WRC manufacturer points as they finish the day in ninth ...
Latvala fights back into points
The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team has come back fighting in leg 2 with Finnish crew Jari-Matti Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila sitting on two WRC manufacturer points as they finish the day in ninth position. Both Mathew Wilson and Henning Solberg showed improved confidence finishing the day with no major problems.
Unpredictable road surfaces meant a challenging test for drivers as tyre choice became a major factor of results in today's stages. Clear and sunny skies were a treat for the tens of thousands of spectators who lined St Pierreville, the 46km monster opener to leg 2. A soft compound tyre seemed to be the pick of the opening loop on the damp and dewy morning roads.
Stages 4 and 5 dried up considerably with ever-present sunshine, which brought confidence levels up for many drivers who yesterday struggled on the slippery night-time stages. Dry sunny conditions meant improved times for many competitors as they raced up the beautiful Ardeche mountain region.
Coming into lunchtime service all three Stobart VK M-Sport Ford drivers were happy to be racing on dry tarmac roads and felt confident about the final three stages, a re-run of the morning roads. All cars returned to service without any problems except for a cracked drivers-side window to the number 16 car of Wilson, courtesy of a rock thrown by an unhappy spectator.
With the roads drying up, competitors headed out from Vals les Bains remote service to tackle the giant St Pierreville stage for the second time round. All crews showed phenomenal improvement, each shaving over one minute off their morning pass.
Latvala was the quickest of the three Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team drivers finishing in the top ten on every stage including an impressive fifth on Stage 4. The only problem to hinder his improving rhythm was a launch control issue which lost him a small amount of time on the opening split of the last two stages.
After ripping off his far left light bumper pod, British driver Wilson decided to take it easy on the last stage to look-after his car and a crucial Rallye Monte Carlo finish. Wilson showed good speed in sections while gaining valuable experience driving the car on tarmac for the first time.
Multiple Norwegian rally champion Solberg, showed vast progression from last night's leg as he continued to adjust to the car and learn the ways of pure tarmac driving. Overheating brake troubles unsettled Solberg on the second pass of the long stage, before coming back on stage 7, finishing the 16km stage in tenth position.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
"The car feels really good in long corners and I'm finding myself changing up a gear a lot earlier than what I normally do. The stages are very technical and there are some narrow sections where you need to be really careful and concentrate on keeping it neat. There's a bit of gravel about but now the roads dried up its really fast, a few more G-forces that time through! I couldn't see much on the last stage because of the light bumper pod and lost a lot of time but its better to take it cautiously and finish the rally rather than crash into something."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:
"Ahh, that was great. This is the first time I can smile after a stage and I am starting to really find my confidence now so it feels fantastic! The rhythm I have is much better now and I liked the stages on dry tarmac because the conditions are not as slippery. Gravel is easy because you know the limit but on tarmac it is very narrow so you have to be careful because there is not so much room for error. I am very pleased to be in the points for the team and hopefully I can go one position better tomorrow and add a championship point to my name, which is my goal for this rally."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
"The first stages this morning were very slippery I just need some more time in the car to adjust. It went a bit better on the other final stages the road was dry and I found it much easier to drive the car. Tyre choice today was fine, the car is good and the feeling is coming. It is starting to feel better but we lost the brakes at the end there and I had to push twice on them before every corner."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"I am very pleased with Jari-Matti's performance today. He has upped his pace but still knows he needs to finish. At the minute he has two manufacture points and if the conditions remain good tomorrow I think he can improve on this even more. Matt has done a good job today especially when his pod light came off as it knocked all the others out of line, he's quite happy at the minute and is looking to improve tomorrow. Henning has done well today and his times have improved a lot, when its dry he is going well but I think he just wants to finish this rally and get to Sweden and Norway."
-credit: stobart m-sport