Super Solberg spears Stobart to success in Jordan The fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship has been a successful outing for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team this weekend with all three drivers finishing with point scoring...
Super Solberg spears Stobart to success in Jordan
The fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship has been a successful outing for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team this weekend with all three drivers finishing with point scoring results in the Drivers' Championship.
Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud's strong finish today saw them end up top Stobart crew in fourth overall. Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin scored their best ever WRC finish together one spot behind Solberg in fifth. Despite retirement on Friday, Gigi Galli/Giovanni Bernacchini remained focused to finish in the final points position in eighth. The fine effort by all three crews has seen the Stobart squad close the gap on third place in the WRC Manufacturers' Championship.
Solberg set out cautiously during the opening half of the event only to close proceedings in a dominant fashion and again finish as the number one man in the Stobart camp. Beginning in seventh this morning the Norwegian put in a string of top-five stage times to be rewarded with his fourth place finish and five valuable drivers' points.
Admittedly a driving style unsuited to the fast gravel stages was the reason for his placid start to the rally but setup changes on Saturday and a mature approach to final day saw him leave Jordan with a smile and move four places up in the WRC Drivers' Championship to seventh.
Wilson set out to tackle the final day in sixth position after a consistent run over Friday and Saturday's legs. A continued solid drive on Sunday saw him advance to fifth by the end of the event, holding off an eager Federico Villagra behind him.
The young Brit was set for an equal best fourth place finish until a costly puncture on the monster Jordan River 1 stage saw him slip back one position, losing over three minutes. Still the top-five effort sees him move to 10th outright in the WRC Drivers' Championship.
Galli battled his way back to eighth after his Friday problem when he slid backwards into a stone bank causing too much damage to the rear differential cooler and exhaust for him to continue; but by the end of the event he finished just 8.8 seconds adrift of seventh. The Italian brushed off an uncharacteristically slow start to set three fastest stage times on the final three stages on Saturday.
The event began on Thursday evening on the banks of the famous Dead Sea; the world's lowest land-point at 420 metres below sea level. Crews then headed out Friday morning for the first of 22 stages over 359 competitive kilometres. Temperatures over the weekend were some of the hottest this year and the lack of cloud cover sent sweltering heat into the cockpit of all three Stobart Ford Focus RS WRCs. Surprisingly today saw a brief rain shower in the morning but by the start of stage 17, roads had almost completely dried-up.
The extremely abrasive surface on this rally challenged both drivers and their Pirelli Scorpion tyres but the rubber did its job well and delivered impressively in the soaring temperatures.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Gigi Galli said:
"We are definitely pleased with this result but we were disappointed with the problem on Friday. On Saturday I really had to concentrate again and we found a good feeling and a good rhythm with the car and managed to set three fastest times so for sure I must be happy with this progress. Today was quite tough and the long stage made it a difficult way to finish the rally but now I have much more confidence going into my home rally in Sardinia."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
"I came to this rally aiming for a fifth place and am delighted to have got fourth; I am really happy with this finish. I knew it was going to be a tough rally and I had to use my head. It would have been easy to push hard from the start and make a mistake but I needed to get to the finish without doing anything wrong. This plan has worked because now I have more points and everything feels good with the car and especially with the next rally quite close, it will help a lot."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
"We were slightly disappointed this morning when the puncture cost us a lot of time but in the end we remained focused and now we have finished fifth which I am really happy with on this new and difficult event. My fitness has played a key part and has helped a lot with my concentration and performance on the stages. This was a hard rally but this finish is now our best result so far this year."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"We've seen another fantastic performance from the entire Stobart team on what was a tough, demanding and tricky Jordan Rally. Gigi proved again that he has the speed as he set three fastest times during the rally, while Matthew and Henning both put in faultless drives. Three Stobart cars in the top-eight is ample proof of how they all drove with their heads and in a very sensible manner especially with the next rally so close."
Stobart Group Ltd CEO Andrew Tinkler said:
"The heat here has taken a lot out of me and I have just been watching this rally! I must say I'm really impressed with how all three crews have driven this weekend and three Stobart cars in the points is a fantastic achievement. The British public can also be rightly proud of Matthew and Scott who've delivered a great result here and continued to promote the talent in Cumbria. Now they can all head into Sardinia well prepared and with more confidence."