WRC

Rally Japan: Stobart M-Sport leg one summary

Mixed fortunes for Stobart duo in Japan After day 1 of Rally Japan, round 14 of the FIA World Rally Championship, Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin lie in sixth place. Unfortunately Francois Duval/Patrick Pivato retired from the event after an...

Mixed fortunes for Stobart duo in Japan

After day 1 of Rally Japan, round 14 of the FIA World Rally Championship, Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin lie in sixth place. Unfortunately Francois Duval/Patrick Pivato retired from the event after an accident on stage 6 this afternoon which saw the French co-driver airlifted to Higashi Tokushukai hospital in Sapporo with a fractured pelvis and fractured tibia. To increase the chances of a speedy recovery he will be operated on tonight.

Organisers and event medical staff did a fantastic job to arrive speedily on the scene and work efficiently to help the Frenchman out of his car after he became trapped in it for several minutes after the accident. Duval was uninjured in the accident and accompanied his navigator to the hospital.

The accident occurred 4.8 kilometres into stage six on a fast muddy section of road when Duval slid wide into a crash barrier heavily impacting a steel support pole on the co-driver's side door. First on the scene were team-mates Wilson and Martin who aided Duval in alerting safety officials.

Officials cancelled the stage (giving notional times to those who did not complete it) to allow medical crews easier access to the Stobart crew's car. Unfortunately for competitors running down the order the rally action became very slim when organisers were forced to cancel stage 8 to make up the time. Due to demanding weather conditions which has seen several centimetres of snow fall over the last few days, stage 7 (and 3) was also cancelled, yesterday, in the concern of safety.

Wilson's drive today was a very measured one as he began proceedings by setting the fifth fastest time on the opening stage of the rally. The 21-year-old continued this form to the final stage of the day to finish sixth and will head into tomorrow's leg less than 11 seconds behind fourth place; the position he finished on last year's Rally Japan. The young Brit however has Swede P-G Andersson nipping at his heals just 0.4 seconds behind so will need to be on the ball in the morning when stage 11 gets underway at 08:28.

It was a fairly slim day of rallying with just 57.4 kilometres of competitive action played out after the cancellation of the four stages. The final two stages took crews back to Sapporo city centre for two passes of the spectator friendly Sapporo Dome Super Special with its undercover seating a blessing as the rain begin to fall heavily late this afternoon. Pirelli

Last night saw over 9,000 fans into the Sapporo Dome for the official ceremonial start of the event which was one of the most spectacular this season. After a slim day today with a total of four stages being cancelled, tomorrow is set to kick things back into gear with 10 stages due to run -- including the longest of the event Kamuycep at 33.66 kilometres.

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

"Well it has been quite an eventful day and I hope Patrick is doing OK in hospital tonight as he undergoes surgery. It is good to finish the day sixth and in a position to fight for a top-four spot but OK we have seen what has happened today and there is a long way to go in this event. The first two stages went really well this morning and it's great to have found the speed right from the word go. The stages were getting quite rutted even running just ninth on the road and the one proper stage we did this afternoon was quite tricky. On stage two we struggled a little bit with the small Tarmac sections on the stage because it was difficult to judge the braking points entering these sections. The pacenotes also didn't quite gel this morning but we made quite a few changes during the stages and this seemed to help on stage 5 this afternoon."

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

"Tonight Patrick will be operated on to fix a fractured pelvis and tibia he sustained in a high speed accident with Francois today. The accident happened about five kilometres into stage 6 when Francois got slightly caught out on a slippery, high-speed section and the car slid wide into the Armco. There was a large steel post holding some wire which the car had a heavy impact with on Patrick's side. The event safety crews did a fantastic job in getting to the scene quickly and safely extracting Patrick from the car before airlifting him to hospital. Matthew has done a superb job of driving today and is now in a strong position to battle for a top-four spot tomorrow. Both he and Scott also need to be commended on their handling of the situation with Francois' accident; arriving first on the scene they accessed the situation and took the right actions to help their team-mates safely out of the stage."

-credit: stobart

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Series WRC
Teams M-Sport