WRC

Rally Catalunya: Stobart M-Sport preview

Coasting into Costa Daurada, Stobart style After a four week break, the FIA World Rally Championship will get back into full-swing as the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team head to Spain for Rally RACC Catalunya Costa Daurada. This twelfth ...

Coasting into Costa Daurada, Stobart style

After a four week break, the FIA World Rally Championship will get back into full-swing as the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team head to Spain for Rally RACC Catalunya Costa Daurada. This twelfth round of the championship is the third all-asphalt rally of the year.

Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila will look to continue their impressive form this year as they head to the event as the most experienced Stobart crew. Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr also have experience of the event and will look to put it to good use, while team-mate Henning Solberg will be competing in Catalunya for the first time in his career -- co-driver Cato Menkerud has competed here twice before in 2000 and 2002.

Last year Rally Catalunya took place in March but with the event moving to an October fixture temperatures will be slightly higher this time around. Roads here are renowned as some of the fastest on tarmac but drivers are constantly kept on their toes as loose gravel often makes its way onto the smooth surface making sections extremely slippery.

Costa Daurada, the region hosting this spectator-driven Spanish rally, means literally, the 'Golden Coast'. Rally HQ is again located in the Port Aventura Resort with Service Park in the surroundings of the famous Port Aventura theme park.

Crews will tackle 367 kilometres of competitive action as the battle for drivers' and manufacturers' standings begins to heat-up with only five events to go in the 2007 season. The Stobart team still sits fourth in the teams' race, lurking closely behind Subaru's factory outfit.

Competing here three times since 2004, Latvala has put in some solid performances including second in GpN in 2005. Despite an opening day retirement he put in some impressive stage times last year driving a Ford Focus RS WRC05 under the Stobart banner. This year he will be looking to draw upon his experience of the event in an effort to score more championship points. The Finn currently sits eighth in the drivers' standings.

For Solberg this will be a new experience as he continues to grow on this foreign surface to the Norwegian. With three asphalt rallies still to be challenged this year Solberg has been busy back home racing his WRC-spec go-kart to further his knowledge of tarmac driving. Heading into Rally Catalunya, Norway's favourite son lies in sixth position just three points behind his brother Petter and Dani Sordo who are locked in an equal battle for fourth.

Twenty-year-old Wilson will be looking to cash in on his experience of the event against the 23-strong world rally car entries. Despite a dislodged rear wheel two stages from the end of last year's event, Wilson still managed a top-15 finish setting some quick stage times. This year, Britain's only full-time WRC driver has shown tremendous form on tarmac, more recently in Germany where he finished just one spot outside the points in ninth position overall.

As Corsica is again being paired with Rally Catalunya, crews will have to be extra careful not to damage their machines with the French event run immediately on the following weekend.

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Henning Solberg said:

"I have been learning a lot this year about tarmac driving and I took a lot out of Germany last month. We have been doing some more driving with the go-kart and it is helping me understand the lines and style I need to drive on tarmac. The roads are quite wide here which I think could help with my confidence but because I have never done the rally before I really don't know what to expect. We started to put in much better times on the last day of Rally Germany which helped my confidence a lot. It would be great to finish in the points here but my main goal is to finish every stage and get the maximum experience on the tarmac roads."

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:

"This week I did some training with a Finnish track expert who has won Finnish championships many times. From this he identified that my driving style on tarmac is far too aggressive so he showed me ways to make it smoother and I am hoping to put this into practice at Catalunya. It is something I am starting to understand but it will take time, so finishing the next two rallies and getting maximum experience is very important. Roads in Catalunya are wide but because there are lots of cuts there is always a lot of gravel on the road which can make things tricky. My goal for the event is a points finish and personally I want to try and make my style a lot smoother."

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:

"Germany was quite a good event for us and I have been looking forward to this rally. For this event we will be making new notes but because the route is very similar to last year I'm quite confident that we will make good, fresh ones. I really enjoy the fast wide roads here but there can be some tricky sections where gravel has been dragged onto them. If conditions stay the same as last year it will be really good. It was dry for the entire 2006 event and that made things much more enjoyable for us. You can't really afford to do anything silly with Corsica on the following week so for us the most important thing is to look after the car and get to the end of the event so we can be fully prepared to challenge in Corsica."

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:

"Both Jari-Matti and Henning have the potential to do very well here. Of all the tarmac rallies this year, this is probably the most suited to both drivers with its very fast and wide roads; and I can't see why they both couldn't finish in the points. If the weather stays dry, certainly at the start of the event at least, then I think all three Stobart drivers could finish with strong results. Still, with Corsica being run the following weekend, all the guys will have to take care as both the cars and the engines will be re-used for the French rally."

-credit: stobartmotorsport.com

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Jari-Matti Latvala , Malcolm Wilson , Miikka Anttila , Henning Solberg , Cato Menkerud , Matthew Wilson , Michael Orr
Teams M-Sport