Rally de Portugal
Stobart Ready For Big Push In Portugal
The M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team will aim to continue its bright start to the 2011 FIA World Rally Championship at the Vodafone Rally de Portugal next week.
The leading privateer outfit is just behind the two manufacturer squads, 11 points off second place. M-Sport Stobart’s Mads Østberg is only three points adrift of third in the FIA Drivers’ standings and after two rounds he lies five points ahead of fellow Norwegian Petter Solberg. His current position is the best ever for a Stobart driver in the team’s six year history.
With the mood in the camp buoyant after such an excellent start, all the crews are confident of once again turning in an exciting performance when they head to the Algarve.
Rally de Portugal has been a long-standing event in the WRC calendar since it was introduced to the series in 1973. The fast gravel and rock-strewn stages in the Algarve and Alentejo region have made the Portuguese round of the WRC a notoriously difficult but extremely popular rally with both drivers and fans alike.
This year’s competitive route remains largely unaltered apart from an all-new 3km Super Special in Lisbon’s bustling city centre, and with all three of the squad’s crews having contested the rally in previous years it will be the perfect event for the M-Sport Stobart team-mates to push hard for second place in the Manufacturers’ standings.
Rally Sweden runners-up Mads Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson got off to a flying start this season, racking up a brace of top-five finishes in the championship’s opening two rounds. Prior to Sweden, Østberg’s best WRC result was sixth from 2009’s Rally de Portugal, but the Norwegian - who is due to test the Ford Fiesta RS WRC on Monday - will be looking to top that and claim his third consecutive top-five result.
Stobart stalwarts Henning Solberg and co-driver Ilka Minor are the team’s other nominated point-scorers at the third round of the WRC next week. Solberg’s best result in Portugal is fifth from 2008, and the Norwegian will be aiming to post another top-five finish in the new Fiesta RS WRC.
The British crew of Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin will pilot the team’s third Fiesta RS WRC. The 24-year-old Cumbrian was sitting in a career-best fourth position in Mexico, but was forced to retire after his car suffered electrical problems. Wilson has since put his misfortune at the previous WRC round behind him and a test prior to the event will boost his chances of another strong performance.
Mads Østberg said:
“Since the last WRC round, I’ve been busy training and we had a DC sponsor event on Saturday in Trysil where we did a 38.5 metre jump, it was brilliant fun and there were loads of people there. Now I must focus on Portugal - it will be my fourth time there and I’m really looking forward to it as it’s definitely one of my favourite rallies. The stages are mostly the same as last year and they are a lot of fun to drive. It’ll be different from Mexico as I was trying to learn as much as I could at that event, but this time I will be wanting to push a lot more as I already know the stages. I want to get closer to the factory drivers at this rally so I’ll be looking to set some fast times from the outset and I’ll be aiming for a top-five finish.”
Henning Solberg said:
“We’ve come from a really tough event so it’ll be good to go to Portugal where I will feel a lot more confident and I’m more familiar with the roads. Most of the stages this year are the same as last year which will definitely help and take some of the pressure off when it comes to the recce. The rally is also a couple of months earlier than usual so the weather should be a lot cooler and the conditions on the roads will be less dusty. It’ll be strange having Shakedown on the Wednesday afternoon but the new stage in Lisbon will hopefully be worth the change to the schedule. We can challenge a top-five result next week and as always I will work as hard as I can to get some good points for the team.”
Matthew Wilson said:
“I always enjoy going to Portugal as I know the stages really well and there’s always a great buzz from start to finish. It’ll be different not having a Super Special in the Algarve Stadium this year, but Lisbon sounds like it’ll be a great alternative and I can imagine there will be some big crowds. There’s always a fantastic atmosphere in Portugal and the fans are always very supportive. If it’s dry next week the grip should be good, but if it does rain then that can make it really difficult on some of the stages. I’m hoping that it stays dry - the consistent grip levels always help with confidence.”
-source: stobart m-sport