The Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team have made it safely through the opening five stages of the 60th Neste Oil Rally Finland with three of the four Stobart crews finishing inside the top ten. Thursday was the hottest day on record in Finland and...
The Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team have made it safely through the opening five stages of the 60th Neste Oil Rally Finland with three of the four Stobart crews finishing inside the top ten.
Thursday was the hottest day on record in Finland and 99 crews started Rally Finland in temperature topping 35 degrees Celsius. Four-time World Rally Champion Juha Kankkunen reported that the difference between his Ford Focus RS WRC and the last WRC car that he drove eight years ago was like night and day. However, the 51-year-old driver, had no problems adjusting to the new generation WRC car and he and co-driver Juha Repo put in a good pace finishing 10th overall after the event's first five stages. Kankkunen is just 6.7 seconds off snatching ninth place from BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Khalid Al Qassimi.
Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin reported no problems during the opening stages and finished the morning loop in seventh position overall. Team-mates Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor produced a series of fast stages with their only problem being a small spin on SS3 and hitting a road sign on SS5. Despite this, the Norwegian driver still finished SS5 fifth-fastest and is placed sixth overall at the end of the morning loop. Solberg is just 4.1 seconds off claiming fifth position from Sebastien Loeb.
Mattias Therman and co-driver Janne Perala reported they were happy with how everything is going so far and the duo lie 22nd overall as they enter the afternoon's stages.
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
"I've had no major dramas this morning and it's all been going fine. The first couple of stages were a bit damp but I think this improved our performance as it helped bind the road surface together. I was too careful in the last stage - the ruts are very deep but they were the safest place to drive. Our brakes weren't working as well as they were at the start of the day but otherwise, the car is working fine so we won't make any big changes to the set up this afternoon."
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
"I have to push hard everywhere in this rally but I am happy with how everything is going so far. I last drove the [Ford] Focus in Portugal so it's just going to take a bit of time to get used to driving the car again. The gearbox and differential were causing some problems on the first couple of stages but it seems OK now. It was awful to hear that Mikko [Hirvonen] rolled on SS3 -- he really didn't deserve that but he will come back. On the last stage of the morning, we cut down a road sign but it doesn't seem to have damaged the car too much."
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Juha Kankkunen said:
"I'm being quite careful and spending some time finding the correct braking points -- there's no point trying any circuit tricks here. Perhaps the ride height is slightly too low but I think we will keep the same set up this afternoon as the car feels good generally. The engine hasn't changed on the new generation WRC cars but the handling are braking are very different. I'm slowly coming back and getting used to the car but it may take some time -- the difference between today's cars and the cars eight years ago is like the difference between day and night."
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Mattias Therman said:
"Everything is going OK - I loved the jumps on the morning's stages and we got a really good feeling of the car. We've only had one problem and that was on SS5 when we picked up too much speed and slightly overshot a corner - I think it lost us about 5 seconds in time. Everything is going just as we hoped though and we just want to keep going as we have been this morning."