Solberg flies the Stobart flag in Finland A tough second day on round nine of the FIA World Rally Championship sees Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud lying in fifth position overall. The pair lead the way for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team...
Solberg flies the Stobart flag in Finland
A tough second day on round nine of the FIA World Rally Championship sees Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud lying in fifth position overall. The pair lead the way for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team as Neste Oil Rally Finland moves into the final day tomorrow.
Brits Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin slot in as the second best placed Stobart crew in ninth position. Beginning the day in 11th spot the pair drove consistently over the eventful day to be rewarded with a two place advance up the leaderboard.
Unfortunately for team-mates Gigi Galli/Giovanni Bernacchini their day ended in a high speed accident after rolling at 14.3 kilometres into stage 16 after slightly misjudging the pace of the road. The same section where the Italians rolled also claimed two other crews including fellow WRC competitor P G Andersson.
With their Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC07 heavily damaged during the incident the pair will not restart the event and have retired from Rally Finland. Both Galli and Bernacchini were uninjured during the high-speed accident.
Solberg has been in a day long, three-way battle for third, fourth and fifth and will head into tomorrow's final day still within sight of a podium finish. The Norwegian unfortunately picked up a 10 second penalty today after a mechanically-induced jump-start on the 20.09 kilometre Kakaristo 1 test.
Twenty-one-year-old Wilson struggled to find a suitable rhythm today but a clever drive has seen him bring his Stobart Focus RS home in one piece and just one spot away from a points' scoring position. It was another testing day for Pirelli with changing conditions over the ultra-fast stages with the Scorpion gravel tyre again coming out on top.
As one of the longest legs of the year, today threw 168.25 kilometres of competitive stages at crews as they tackled no fewer than 10 special stages. Conditions were colder than previous days but with things staying dry crews were left with less-slippery conditions than yesterday.
Ninety two of the original 99 starters headed out of Service E this morning to tackle the stages which were based predominantly to the west of Rally HQ in Jyvaeskylae and flooded with tens of thousands of spectators who flock here each year for this spectacular event.
With the dry conditions came loose gravel, catching out many top-level drivers as Rally Finland once again offered yet another day of high-flying rally action. In contrast to today, tomorrow will see a relatively short leg with just 40.47 kilometres of competitive distance to be covered over three fresh, but very demanding, stages.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Gigi Galli said:
"It has been a bitterly disappointing end to the rally here for me. I was just trying to keep our position against Sordo and the accident happened on a tricky left hand corner. My pace notes were slightly out and I ended up sliding into the ditch which then caused the car to roll at high speed into the trees. The car is quite badly damaged and it was obviously a corner that caught out people as two other cars went off in the same place as me. We had got into a good rhythm and found a sensible speed and feeling with the car so I don't think I was pushing too hard on the stage."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
"It has been a difficult day. I'm driving quite hard and my times are really good on the fast sections and the car feels great. But on the narrow roads I just struggle to make it work well and find a good rhythm. The feeling isn't the same as yesterday and I thought the new stages today would work to my advantage but they haven't. We had a few moments, especially at the corner where Gigi went off, so I backed off in that stage as it was very difficult but also very fast. So the plan tomorrow is to get to the finish safely; we are still in line for some good points."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
"Overall I'm glad to have survived a tough day without any major dramas, the last stage today was probably my best and we managed to beat some of the local Finnish guys. Today was difficult and tough but I'm more familiar with the stages used tomorrow as they have been used in previous years so that will give me more confidence. In this rally it's good to have consistency with the stage conditions but today just wasn't like that at all so I'm happy to have got through with no problems."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"It has been a difficult day for the Stobart team and it just proves how specialised and tricky this event is. Henning struggled on these new stages today and unfortunately wasn't able to repeat his fine form from day 1. Gigi started well today by moving to third position but unfortunately got caught out on a fast corner and ended up retiring due to the accident. Despite all that Matthew has preformed faultlessly today punching in some good times and is now just one position off a points finish."