Stobart maintain third in Manufacturer standings
The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team have once again excelled, keeping a firm grasp of third spot in the 2007 Manufacturers' race, after this weekend's Corona Rally Mexico.
All three crews showed consistent pace through the event to finish seventh, eighth and ninth on the overall time-sheets, with Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila topping the trio. Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr took the final drivers' championship point, their first for 2007, while Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud picked up one manufacturer point for their team in ninth.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford still sits ahead of Subaru's factory team in the overall Manufacturer standings, holding the spot in a tie-break situation. Finishing the rally means all three drivers will head to Portugal confident with the experience of a full gravel event, in the Ford Focus RS WRC06, under their belt.
Set amongst the mountainous regions across the state of Guanajuato, the highest altitude rally of the championship tested crews from start to finish. Dust posed the main problem during leg 3 with organisers having to extend stage gaps to three minutes after terrible visibility levels on the 16.29 kilometre Leon stage.
True to its history, Corona Rally Mexico challenged many crews with its rocky gravel surface and hot temperatures, in complete contrast to what was offered in the snow less than one month ago. The event presented one of the most spectacular ceremonial starts in the championship as over 50,000 locals lined the streets of Guanajuato City to catch a glimpse of their favourite WRC stars.
For leg 3, Solberg had the task of keeping his Focus RS on the road to ensure a manufacturer point and that is exactly what he did. Not looking to make any mistakes the Norwegian drove a sensible leg to bring his car home after a disappointing mistake on stage 1, where he rolled and lost over seven minutes.
Latvala was fast every day of the event and bagged himself two championship points in the process, placing him equal eighth in the standings. The young Finn improved progressively through the rally finishing every stage in fifth place on the final leg, a huge confidence booster heading to Portugal in two weeks time.
UK driver Wilson, finished on a high scoring his first driver point for the season after some niggling troubles slowed him down during the opening leg. The 20-year-old fell victim to spectator stupidity when a gate was closed on stage 10 forcing the youngster to slow down and drive through it. A slight miss-fire also posed a threat on day two but Wilson battled on, holding his position and setting several top ten stage times.
The Stobart Motorsport crew of Mark Higgins and Scott Martin backed up the main team's results with victory in the Production WRC and finished an amazing tenth overall, with over a minute's lead in the category. This was a fantastic victory for Higgins, his first at this level.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
"Today went fine, we just had to hold our position as there was nothing really to chase for. The dust was a bit of a problem on the first stage which made things more difficult. I am a bit disappointed with my roll on the first day, I know my result could have been much better had this not happened, but at the same time we did manage to finish the rally which is important for my experience on gravel. My times were good when everything was going well with the car and to finish back in the points for the team is important for me."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:
"Seventh is a good position for me, we came here to finish the rally, score some points and get more experience on gravel; and this is exactly what happened. It took me a little while to adjust to driving on gravel on the first day but the feeling got better through Saturday and I was really impressed with my split times. I am also happy to have scored more points for both the drivers' and manufacturer championships and to complete all the stage miles here is also a bonus; it gives me a better feeling for the next rally in Portugal. I had no problems and made no mistakes, exactly what I needed to do; I stuck to my game plan and so I'm happy with this finish."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
"I have been happy with my performance here and we have completed the rally and done exactly what we set out to do; to score my first point of the year is a big bonus. It was important for me not to make any mistakes and to finish the event ahead of Portugal. We had some small problems with the car at times and dropped time in some of the stages but generally things went well and I have driven a consistent rally. On the last main stage today we were on a section of road for the third time and it's amazing how much I was able to remember, it just shows how important experience of stages and an accurate set of pace notes are. I know that I need this experience to go faster, with that in mind, I am very happy with how the rally went."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"The team have managed to maintain third position in the Manufacturer Championship, which is excellent. It has been a good performance all round with all of the guys scoring points. I was very pleased with Jari's times and I think they have shown his true potential; Henning's performance has also impressed me with his first time on gravel in this car, I think there's much more to come from him. To top it all off, Matt has done a steady job and claimed his first points of the season."
Eddie Stobart Ltd Chairman Andrew Tinkler said:
"It has been a great day for the Stobart Motorsport team with four cars in the top ten. I have been watching the split times all weekend and Jari has been really impressing me. With Matthew and Henning finishing in the points as well, it has been a great team effort. The icing on the cake has been the victory for Mark and Scott in the Production WRC, they were under a lot of pressure during the weekend and the pace was really hot; I'm really pleased for them."