Solberg Holds Fifth As Greek Rally Of Attrition Remains Tough
M-Sport Stobart Ford team-mates Henning Solberg and Ilka Minor lie fifth in their Ford Fiesta RS WRC after an extremely rough second day at the Acropolis Rally of Greece. Team-mate Matthew Wilson holds sixth in the team’s other Fiesta RS WRC.
Four drivers are entered under the M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team banner at the sun-drenched seventh round of the WRC but it was Mads Østberg who set the pace for the Cumbrian-based squad after the Norwegian completed the day’s opening 17.41 km stage third quickest.
Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson were forced to retire yesterday after an impact on Stage 4 but a string of top-five stage times on today’s loop saw the duo move from 25th at the start of the day up to 14th at the end of Stage 13.
The Ghymno stage, nestled deep in the Peloponnese peninsula, was reported by the WRC drivers as the roughest and most challenging of the day. During the first pass of the 26.28 km stage, the bleed nipple worked loose on the right rear brake calliper of Solberg’s Ford Fiesta RS WRC which cost the leading M-Sport Stobart crew over 50 seconds. The following stage proved just as difficult as Solberg was forced to contest the 18.40 km stage with front brakes only.
The brake calliper was changed at the midday service and Solberg had a clear afternoon pass to consolidate his fifth place positioning.
Despite problems with intermittent misfire, Matthew Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin had a strong run over today’s stages to maintain their lead over former Formula One Champion Kimi Räikkönen.
Wilson reported a small problem when he temporarily lost the lighting on his M-Sport run Ford Fiesta RS WRC during the closing 17.71 km night stage but he still managed to finish the test seventh-fastest. At the end of the second day, the 24-year-old lies sixth overnight – one minute and 25.2 seconds ahead of Räikkönen.
After yesterday’s disappointing retirement, the notoriously quick Evgeny Novikov reported he wanted to return to today’s rally to drive his Ford Fiesta RS WRC to the maximum. Throughout the morning loop, the flying Russian set a series of quick times but fell foul to the rock-strewn stages when he suffered a rear-left puncture at the end of Stage 9.
On the road section to Stage 12, Novikov and co-driver Denis Giraudet’s mission was abruptly ended when the pair were forced to retire due to a broken alternator belt. The pair will return under SupeRally regulations for the final day of action tomorrow.
Henning Solberg said:
“I just wanted to drive as well as I could today – it was hard this morning as we had lost the brakes but surprisingly the times weren’t so bad. The biggest concern I had for this afternoon were the rocks that had been dragged onto the road from this morning but I’m happy with how everything has gone. The dust was lingering from Stage 12 when it was still light so I was concerned as to how the dust would affect us on the night stage and for sure, it was very difficult. Tomorrow I want to have a clear run – this is a hard rally so I would be happy with fifth and it would also be a good result for my sponsors.”
Matthew Wilson said:
“It’s been a good day apart from a few small problems – we had a misfire which meant we struggled with power on the uphill sections and we also had a bit of oversteer on a couple of the stages. We also lost the preload from rear diff on Stage 9 which affected the handling but apart from that, it’s been OK. Kefalari stage was definitely one of nicer of the three stages - it wasn’t as rough so we didn’t feel that we had to worry about what we were going to hit all the time. The night stage was fine but we lost a small amount of time when I switched the button and lost the lights for a few seconds. For sure, it’s frustrating about the misfire today but it’s good to have got through a difficult day and we’ve got a good road position for tomorrow.”
Mads Østberg said:
“I tried to adjust the lights before the start of the night stage but I didn’t have enough time to get it perfect and there was so much dust that I couldn’t really see where I was going. That was not nice to drive like that but apart from that, we had quite a good day. I am feeling a lot more confident now - the car is working well after we adjusted the pre load diff and changed the springs during last night’s service. It was always going to be a lot rougher in the afternoon pass today so we raised the car and added some more protection to the car at the midday service. It’s been very rough but we’ve had a much better day and I’m looking forward to getting out again in the car tomorrow.”
Evgeny Novikov said:
“It’s disappointing to retire again today but I’ve been happy with my times. It was good to get more experience in the car and I think if we have no problems then we could chase the guys at the top. I really wanted to push to the maximum today and to drive flat out but on Stage 9, we got caught in the dust from Jari-Matti [Latvala]. We couldn’t drive as fast as we wanted in those kind of road conditions and then we had a puncture. I didn’t even know I had a puncture until we reached the end of the stage so it must have happened right at the end. Then on the way to Stage 12 we discovered the alternator belt had broken so we called it a day. Tomorrow I will be back and I’d like to aim for some top three stage times.”
-source: stobart m-sport ford