Solid positions for Stobart drivers after Leg 1
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford are once again showing their class in the World Rally Championship with both Jari-Matti Latvala and Matthew Wilson in top ten positions at the end of leg 1. True to Corona Rally Mexico history, it was a tough battle catching out several top competitors.
It wasn't, unfortunately, the same for team-mate Henning Solberg who lost several minutes after a roll on the opening 23.06 kilometre Alfaro 1 stage. As a result, the Norwegian lost hydraulic pressure in his Ford Focus RS WRC06 penalising him with precious minutes over the three morning stages.
Based around Guanajuato, one of the most colourful colonial cities in the Americas, today's stages offered typically hot and humid weather conditions for teams. 30-degree plus temperatures meant lots of hydration for drivers as concentration played a big part on these tough, unpredictable roads.
It was a testing leg with tyre compounds and road position a crucial factor in deciding the final standings for the day. Traditionally, front-runners have always been disadvantaged with slippery conditions as they sweep the roads of loose gravel and this year was no exception.
Solberg had a horror start to his Rally Mexico campaign when a stray rock bounced the rear of his Focus RS up and rolled it through a right-hand corner, subsequently loosing the Norwegian time over the next two stages with the loss of hydraulic pressure.
Miraculously, his Stobart VK M-Sport Ford mechanics had the car back to race standard after Service A, with only 20 seconds of penalty for running over the allowed time, a superb mechanical performance. Solberg still lost a small amount of time in the afternoon stages as a result of excess dust, which clouded him and co-driver Cato Menkerud, who found it very difficult to breathe.
It was a solid performance by Latvala who consistently set top ten stage times to finish leg 1 in seventh position. The 21-year-old admitted he was taking time to covert back from snow to a gravel style of driving but began to show improved pace over the final stages. Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila head into day two in a competitive points position.
Wilson and co-driver Michael Orr battled through minor problems to finish the day an impressive eighth overall. The 20-year-old was running well until engine troubles halfway through stage 5 blighted his performance. The car began to miss-fire in stage mode and became progressively worse for the remaining three stages.
Wilson still managed to hang onto the final championship point-scoring spot and will head into leg 2 confident, with a repaired car from this evening's service.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
"I was coming around a right-hand corner and hit something under the car, suddenly we just flipped over. We lost hydraulic pressure and had to switch to manual gear-change which lost us some time. I had the mistake this morning and paid for it all day but that's a part of the game. It was very difficult to breathe on the stages and it felt like my lungs were full of dust. We will forget about today and try our best tomorrow."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:
"The start was a bit slow for me because I am still trying to find my confidence on gravel after being on the snow for two rallies, but this afternoon felt much better. Everything is fine and we had no problems with the car or tyre choice today which was great. We will have a good day tomorrow I think because I am finally starting to get my rhythm back over the gravel surface."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
"We took it a bit easy this morning because the brakes started to go soft on the last seven to eight kilometres of the long stages. We had a miss-fire with the engine this afternoon which started in the middle of stage 5 and it got slowly worse towards the end of the day. I knew it would be bad in stage 6 because there are a lot of long corners uphill; because of this I tried to keep the momentum going and some of the fast sections were quite scary."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"In fairness it's been quite an eventful day. It's good that both Matt and Jari are in point scoring positions and from a team's point of view it is quite positive as both nominated cars are looking strong. Obviously Henning had his problem on the first stage but he needs to put that behind him and pick up the pieces tomorrow. Also Matthew's problem should be solved and he'll keep pushing tomorrow."