Rally de Portugal
Stobart’S Solberg And Wilson Battle For Fifth
M-Sport Stobart Ford’s Matthew Wilson and Henning Solberg are battling it out for fifth place at the end of the first full day of action at Vodafone Rally de Portugal. Only 4.7 seconds separate the Ford Fiesta RS WRC team-mates as Solberg holds fifth and Britain’s Wilson lies just behind in sixth.
Norway’s Solberg and co-driver Ilka Minor reported issues with intermittent misfire on their Fiesta RS WRC during the road sections this morning but the team sorted the problem at the midday service.
Solberg had a trouble-free afternoon on the repeat 64.57 km loop and the M-Sport Stobart team-mate moved into fifth place after his younger brother Petter suffered from a puncture on Stage 6.
Wilson and fellow Cumbrian Scott Martin reported a good car set-up on the opening loop but during the day’s closing stage their Fiesta RS WRC suffered power loss on the uphill sections. The team are hoping to sort the problem during tonight’s service in order for Wilson to produce his best ever finish in Portugal.
Norway’s Mads Østberg had an unfortunate start after suffering from a broken gearbox 300m into today’s opening stage. This was a further blow for the 23-year-old driver after the front right wheel of his Fiesta RS WRC was torn off whilst tackling the 3.27 km Super Special held in Lisbon yesterday afternoon. The loose wheel hit a spectator in the crowd who was taken to hospital for precautionary checks but was later released with no reported injuries.
Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson will restart Rally de Portugal tomorrow morning under SupeRally regulations.
Henning Solberg said:
“I am taking it step by step today and the car has been feeling better on each stage. We had what felt like a misfire this morning but everything has been much better this afternoon and my splits are now a lot closer to the other guys. The car has been going well – this is my first proper time on gravel as we had so many problems in Mexico so I am happy with how everything is going. The steering has been feeling a bit sticky on the last two stages but the set-up has been good. We’re going for the same ride height tomorrow but softer springs. I’m feeling more comfortable in the car now compared to the last two rallies so it’s been a good first day.”
Matthew Wilson said:
“The car feels quite flat in the higher gears, it’s worst when we’re going uphill and on the really fast sections. We’re having to really push downhill in order to make up for the big chunks of time we are losing everywhere else – that last stage was really bad as you’re climbing from the very start. I don’t think it’s a misfire but the team are going to try and find out what’s happening at service as it’s not clear from the data. It’s also been very rough on the stages but, for sure, it’ll be worse tomorrow afternoon because they’ve got the national rally passing through in the morning. But everything has been good generally – the chassis feels very good. I’m feeling confident that we can get some good split times tomorrow and continue our battle for fifth with Henning.”
Mads Østberg said:
“Last night and today have been so frustrating. I was angry with myself after the incident last night and Jonas and I were very concerned after we heard about the spectator. We were relieved to hear he has been dismissed from hospital with no serious injuries - the team have been trying to get in touch with him today to invite him down to the Ford service area to meet us all but we’ve not heard if he can make it yet. At the start line this morning, I heard a bang as soon as I released the clutch - the housing cracked at the back of gearbox and we had no oil, losing rear wheel drive. At first I thought it might be something to do with when we hit the concrete on the Super Special but it’s a totally different problem. Thankfully we have a spare gearbox so we can restart tomorrow. I was angry at myself after yesterday but even more disappointed today but hopefully this is the end of our problems and everything will be perfect for tomorrow and Sunday. We might struggle with motivation but it will be a good opportunity to test the car some more on gravel.”