Stobart Target Top Five In Middle Eastern Challenge
All three M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team crews have set their sights on continuing the team’s strong early season form when the FIA World Rally Championship moves to the Middle East next week, with each believing they are capable of extending the team’s run of top-five finishes at Jordan Rally.
The Cumbrian-based squad have already finished on the podium once this season, followed by a further two top-five results in Mexico and Portugal. However, Jordan could prove the toughest challenge of the season so far as the three Ford Fiesta RS WRC team-mates are forced to deal with 333 gruelling kilometres of sandy gravel, temperatures topping 40 degrees and a variety of altitudes.
The Dead Sea-based event will be a milestone outing for M-Sport Stobart stalwart Henning Solberg, as it marks his 100th WRC appearance. The Norwegian contested his first WRC event in 1998 and has enjoyed a string of successes for M-Sport Stobart since joining the team in 2007, including four podium finishes. Solberg finished fourth at 2008’s Jordan Rally and finished ninth in 2010 alongside current co-driver Ilka Minor. The pairing will look to take advantage of their experience of the rock-strewn Arabian roads next week in order to celebrate Solberg’s centenary outing with a fittingly strong result.
For Jordan Rally debutant Mads Østberg the likes of the Jordan River stage – the longest of the rally at 41.45 km – which winds through desert, cactus farms and date plant farms will be a challenging test. However, the 23-year-old Norwegian is determined to show how quickly he can adapt to the demanding conditions and prove his early season front-running pace was not a flash in the pan.
After a problematic outing at Rally de Portugal last month where Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson’s Fiesta RS WRC was plagued with technical gremlins, the Scandinavian pairing will be looking for a return to points-scoring form in order to move up the championship standings. Østberg is currently sixth in the overall drivers’ standings, three points adrift of fellow Norwegian Petter Solberg in fifth place.
Britain’s Matthew Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin will also be entered under the M-Sport Stobart banner in Jordan. The pair have been enjoying a strong start to the season after running fourth at the previous WRC events in Portugal and Mexico. Wilson has a strong track record in Jordan, finishing fifth both in 2008 and in 2010 so the 24-year-old will be aiming for another top-five finish this year. The young Cumbrian believes the event could be one where all the hard work that he and navigator Martin put in to physical preparation pays off, due to the intense temperatures the crews will experience on the long desert stages.
Mads Østberg said:
“To be honest, I have no idea what to expect at this event - Jordan is a new rally for me and with no test beforehand, it is going to be difficult. It’ll be similar to Mexico in the sense that everything is new so we’ll have to work hard to make sure we have a good recce. I’ll just be wanting to take one stage at a time and to ensure we finish each one – we will need to get as much experience of the roads as possible. I’ve not been feeling very well this week, I’ve had a bit of a fever since I’ve come back from Portugal but I’ve managed to rest over the last few days so I should be fighting fit ready for when I fly out to the Middle East on Saturday.”
Henning Solberg said:
“We will try for a big result again here in Jordan, it was quite unlucky what happened in Portugal but that is in the past and we have to focus on this rally now. We will be fighting hard like we always do and hopefully a top-five result at this event is realistic. I really want to have a rally with no problems and I think this is what we deserve after the last two difficult events. I’m very happy to celebrate my 100th WRC event in Jordan with the Stobart team – I’ve had some fantastic moments over the years and I would like to thank M-Sport for their support over the past few years. Maybe I can also celebrate my 100th event with a strong result at Jordan Rally, I will try my best to make this happen.”
Matthew Wilson said:
“Jordan is probably one of my strongest events in the WRC - I’ve always done well there in the past so hopefully this year will be no different. It’s definitely one of the most challenging rounds on the calendar – some parts of the rally can be very technical and the roads are very twisty so it can be difficult to find a good rhythm. One of the other difficulties in Jordan is the hot weather – the first year we were there, the temperatures inside the car were topping 50 degrees so it was difficult to try and maintain a high level of concentration. It’s definitely a rally of endurance and fitness levels are an important factor at this rally, so hopefully this should work in our favour as Scott and I have been working hard on our fitness recently.”