WRC

Rally Catalunya: Stobart M-Sport leg two summary

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg has begun his charge for a points finish at the Rallye de España while team mate Matthew Wilson remains well-placed to take his ninth points finish at the end of the second day. Both drivers moved...

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg has begun his charge for a points finish at the Rallye de España while team mate Matthew Wilson remains well-placed to take his ninth points finish at the end of the second day. Both drivers moved up one place today to leave Wilson in seventh and Solberg in ninth position; with the Briton showing his trademark consistency while the Norwegian started to overcome his battle to get to grips with driving on asphalt.

Day Two took the 65 crews that made it through Friday's tricky conditions to the north-west of Service Park in Salou. Yesterday morning's damp conditions were replaced with fast, dry roads on the 63.99km three-stage loop, with the longest stage of the rally, the 38.27km El Priorat/La Ribera D'Ebre making up more than half of that distance and attracting thousands of spectators.

With winding, technical tracks, mixed with fast, wide sections, the long opening stage provided a tough challenge for the drivers. But the shorter stages in the loop were equally demanding with gravel dragged onto the roads where drivers cut the corners making conditions slippery and placing heavy demands on both the drivers' skill to pick the right line through the corners and the Pirelli PZero asphalt tyres.

After admitting that he was struggling to find his rhythm on the Tarmac over the morning stages, Solberg lost valuable time on his rivals, but also benefited from Novikov's error to move up to ninth place. With no pre-event testing under his belt on his least favoured surface, the Norwegian has been fighting to adapt to the unfamiliar conditions. But he used the midday service to revert to some of the settings that he used on last year's edition of the rally to help his confidence and feel for the car.

Those changes worked wonders for Solberg and co-driver Cato Menkerud as they made huge strides forward on the second pass of the stages this afternoon. While other crews posted slower times on their second pass of the 8.6km SS11 Les Garrigues 2, Solberg took eight seconds off the mark he had posted on the morning loop and outpaced both team mate Wilson and points rival Federico Villagra on both of the closing stages of the day.

With just 20 seconds separating Solberg from a place in the points, currently occupied by the Munchi's driver, he will be pushing hard to move up the rankings tomorrow.

On the opening stage of the day Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin lost some time after a pace note error caused the young Brit to brake too early on a twisting, technical section of the test. But Evgeny Novikov's crash meant that they were promoted to seventh place by the end of the stage. The crew maintained the consistency they found yesterday, tackling the slippery conditions well to maintain their lead over nearest rival Federico Villagra, picking up the pace as the day progressed.

But the Brits also got into the their stride in the afternoon, posting good times as they got to grips with the surface and the variable conditions adding another five seconds to their cushion over Villagra one place behind.

The final day of the rally is the shortest at 93.88kms but sticks to the familiar format of two passes over a three stage loop. The stages take place just west of the host town with two longer tests finishing with a 4.1km sprint over La Serra d'Almos before the crews arrive back in Salou for the finish.

-credit: stobart

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