Solberg suffers as Wilson advances in Sardinia Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson remains on track to score more important manufacturer points for the team having moved up to sixth place overall at the end of day two of Rally d'Italia...
Solberg suffers as Wilson advances in Sardinia
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson remains on track to score more important manufacturer points for the team having moved up to sixth place overall at the end of day two of Rally d'Italia Sardegna. But team mate Henning Solberg fell victim to the punishing conditions as broken suspension ended his day midway through SS11 Fiorentini.
Day two saw the crews tackle two identical loops of three stages. This loop featured two completely new stages for this year's edition of the rally as well as the famous Monte Lerno stage, the longest of the event at 29.13kms. In soaring temperatures, the 56 starters were tested to the limit on the loose, gravel surface of SS7 Sa Linea, before moving into the narrow tree-lined Fiorentini, where large rocks and trees posed the biggest danger.
Thousands of Italian fans flocked to see the famous jump just 500 metres into the Monte Lerno stage. But while the fans enjoyed spectacular views of the car, the drivers were unhappy with the condition of some of the roads which were heavily rutted even on the first pass.
Solberg and co-driver Cato Menkerud had an excellent start to the day, posting the third fastest time on the opening test and moving up to fifth overall. But the Norwegian's morning took a turn for the worse as he picked up a puncture near the start of the Monte Lerno stage dropping over a minute on the leading crews as he battled to reach the end before changing the tyre.
After a steady start to the afternoon loop, Solberg was hit with even more bad luck as he misjudged his braking coming into a left hand corner 6.8km into the stage and collided with a tree; seriously damaging the car's suspension and forcing him into retirement from day two. Despite the accident Solberg remains in tenth place overall and is hoping to re-enter the action tomorrow under SupeRally conditions with the aim of scoring manufacturer points for the Stobart team.
Wilson's day didn't start well as he was handed a ten second penalty for jumping the start on the opening stage of the morning. But the young Briton and co-driver Scott Martin put in a solid performance over the course of the morning loop to eat into the deficit that had been created by the hydraulic problems on day one.
As other crews fell foul of the challenging road conditions in the afternoon Wilson moved up the field avoiding the same pitfalls as his Ford Focus RS WRC proved its reliability again.
On the middle stage of the loop he lost time as he got caught in the dust thrown up by Dani Sordo's ailing Citroen. Some minor brake issues on the second pass of Monte Lerno also lost him seconds, but he still ended the day in an impressive sixth place, moving up three places from his overnight position.
After two days spent on the rocky, forest roads of central Sardinia, the drivers head towards the Costa Smeralda on the final day for five short stages covering 86.18kms before heading to the finish in the Mediterranean resort of Porto Cervo. The action kicks off with an early morning service at 6am in Olbia port.
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BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver Jari-Matti Latvala maintained his position at the top of the leaderboard but now holds a much-reduced advantage over his team mate Mikko Hirvonen in second place. Sebastien Loeb lost time on the leaders on the penultimate stage of the day when he stopped to change a puncture and dropped to fourth. Petter Solberg took advantage of the Frenchman's problems but is only 2.2 seconds ahead of the reigning world champion going into the final day.
Citroen Junior driver Evgeny Novikov continued to make his mark on the leaderboard finishing the day in fifth place overall. There was disappointment for Munchi's Ford driver Federico Villagra who, after being hit by transmission problems on day one, was forced to withdraw midway through today as co-driver Jorge Perez Companc was too ill to continue.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
"Today was probably one of the most difficult days of the World Rally Championship so far this year so I'm pleased that it has been mostly trouble-free for us and that we've made it to the end of the day. The first stage was unbelievable. There was a lot of very loose gravel and it became really deeply rutted very quickly. We lost some time catching and passing Dani Sordo. It was on a very narrow section so the dust was hanging in the air and it was hard to see the trees. But today ended well and we've not put a wheel wrong and I'm hoping to continue that form tomorrow."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
"I had been trying all day to work on the set-up of the car. We've had some good improvements with the diff map making the car more stable on the faster sections and we're making good progress. But we slipped up under braking for a left-hand corner and I couldn't slow in time for the bend. We hit the front right corner of the car on a tree and I knew immediately that we would not be able to continue. I hope that tomorrow I'll be able to get back out there and score some manufacturer points for the team."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"Matthew has had a very consistent performance today and his experience of this event has paid dividends as it has enabled him to move up three places. His road position for tomorrow is perfect and I'm sure that this will help him consolidate his position on the leaderboard. Unfortunately Henning got caught out by the island's tricky conditions but we are hopeful that he will restart tomorrow and claim some points for the Stobart team."