Stobart's Wilson pips Raikkonen to the post Stobart M-Sport Ford's Matthew Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin won a fiercely contested battle with former Formula One Champion Kimi Raikkonen to finish sixth overall at Rallye ...
Stobart's Wilson pips Raikkonen to the post
Stobart M-Sport Ford's Matthew Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin won a fiercely contested battle with former Formula One Champion Kimi Raikkonen to finish sixth overall at Rallye Deutschland.
The 23-year-old Ford Focus RS WRC driver was locked in a close fight for sixth place with the Finn throughout the 405km event, and over 19 lengthy stages the two WRC rivals pushed to the very end to claim the position. However, a fast stage time on SS15 saw Wilson finish 25.8 seconds faster than Raikkonen and the young Cumbrian took comfort in a 6.9 second lead as they pulled into the final service with only three stages remaining.
Wilson and Martin continued to hold on to their lead in the afternoon's closing stages - which culminated in a crucial Super Special Stage that saw Wilson and Raikkonen go head to head over the short 4.37 km test. Wilson finished second-fastest overall, just 1.8 seconds behind Raikkonen, enough to secure sixth place at the end of the ninth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
The Cumbrian duo's sixth place finish is their best ever result at Rallye Deutschland, and shows how much the pair have improved on tarmac since their last outing at the event in 2008 when they finished twelfth overall. Their previous best result at the all-asphalt event based in Trier was in 2007, when they finished ninth overall.
Returning to FIA World Rally Championship for the first time since 2008, Francois Duval proved he still had pace as he produced three top five stage times on Saturday morning's opening four stages. His charge continued through to Saturday afternoon when he finished SS11 fourth-fastest. Duval's time on the stage was faster than the current World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb, and proved the Belgian driver's ability to threaten the WRC front-runners.
Duval continued to march up the WRC leader board and sat inside the top five for the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team on Saturday afternoon. However, after sliding wide at a right-hand corner only 6.5 km from the end of the longest stage of the WRC season, the 48 km Panzerplatte, the Belgian driver rolled and landed his Ford Focus RS WRC between two hinkelsteins.
Duval and co-driver Denis Giraudet walked unaided from the stage and went for a routine check up at hospital. It has since been confirmed that Giraudet has suffered from broken ribs as a result of the accident, but both team-mates are OK and escaped serious injury.
Despite Duval's retirement at the end of the second day, the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team left ADAC Rallye Deutschland with a haul of ten points and remain fourth in the overall manufacturer championship standings.
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
"I'm really pleased with this result - we hadn't done any testing in the car on asphalt since the last all-tarmac round in Bulgaria in June so I wasn't sure how I was going to get on but it's been a good rally for us. Of course, we've had our ups and downs over the weekend -- I hadn't had as much experience using the hard compound [Pirelli P-Zero] tyres compared to the softer rubber, so our times suffered because of that but it was good to get some practice more practice using them. Yesterday [Saturday] was probably our worst day -- we had a whole new set of notes for Saturday morning's stages so that slowed us down and then Kimi [Raikkonen] pulled away from us during the afternoon. It was so annoying as we had been ahead of him for most of the event but this morning was great for us -- we had a really clear run on the first stage and put in a much faster time than Kimi which put us back in the game. I'm really pleased that I beat him in the end, especially on tarmac which is Kimi's preferred surface. I'm obviously disappointed for Francois and Denis after they had been doing so well yesterday but sometimes that is just the nature of rallies, you can never predict what will happen but the most important thing is that they are both OK."
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Francois Duval said :
"I was very excited to return to the WRC and to drive the Ford Focus RS World Rally Car again for the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team. I'd done over 200 km of testing in the car before the event and I was feeling confident. I know this event -- I'm familiar with the stages and feel very comfortable driving here but for sure, I was a little apprehensive after spending so much time away from a rally car. Then we had some problems with the driveshaft on Friday but we recovered from that and on Saturday I had picked up the pace, I even beat Mikko [Hirvonen] in most of Saturday's stages. I'd always said that a top six position was my aim but when I reached the top five, I was really happy with how it was all going. Then we had our accident -- Denis doesn't remember it happening but all I can recall is a bit of understeer and sliding wide at a right hand corner. I'm in a bit of pain today but it's OK - I'm just disappointed."
Stobart M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"It's a real pity that Francois and Denis had to retire yesterday -- I didn't know what to expect from Francois this weekend as I know what it's like to spend time away from the rally car. It takes a lot of time to adapt again but they really picked up the pace and were putting in some fast times. We were impressed. Obviously it's disappointing for the team that they had to retire but the most important thing is that they are OK -- and looking back at the footage, they were lucky, it could have been much worse as that stage can be very treacherous with all the hinkelsteins. I'm very pleased for Matthew -- he put in another strong performance and has proved that consistency really pays off. The experience he's gained from driving on asphalt this weekend will be very worthwhile and will help him prepare for the next all-asphalt rounds in France and Spain later this year."