Ice and Steady Morning in Sweden for Stobart
The Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team picked up the pace and made good progress on the opening loop of the second full day at Rally Sweden.
Bright, sunny but exceptionally cold conditions greeted the 54 starting crews as they began tackling the day's eight stages, totalling 117.76k of competitive distance split over two loops of four stages.
The first test of the day was the longest of the rally, the 24.63km Vargasen. Marcus Gronholm was the quickest Stobart driver through the stage, notching up the fifth-fastest time as he looked to fight his way back up the standings after yesterday's setback due to an electrical fault. Despite struggling with misting on his front windscreen Henning Solberg still managed the seventh quickest time on the stage, while Matthew Wilson was tenth.
So many fans turned up to watch the classic SS10 Sagen stage it had to be delayed by around 45minutes until they were all safely in place. The 14.23km test is Stobart driver Marcus Gronholm's favourite rally stage in the WRC - and is so close to his heart he named his restaurant after it. His passion for the test was obvious as he blasted through in the second-fastest time - just 3.7seconds behind reigning world champion Loeb. Henning Solberg showed good pace as he went fifth-fastest, while Matthew Wilson narrowed the gap on Mads Ostberg ahead of him to just 4.3seconds with the eighth best time.
On the 18.15km SS11 Fredriksberg Stobart drivers Gronholm and Solberg shone again, posting the fourth and fifth quickest times on the twisty, technical run. Matthew Wilson did not enjoy the conditions as much as his Scandinavian team-mates but still managed to clock a top-ten stage time.
The morning's action was wrapped up by the shortest stage of the rally, the 1.87km Hagfors Sprint close to the service park. The three Stobart Ford Focus RS WRCs of Gronholm, Solberg and Wilson placed sixth, seventh and eighth respectively.
Following the morning's loop Henning Solberg is placed sixth in the overall standings, with team-mate Matthew Wilson in eighth and gunning for Mads Ostberg just ahead of him. Marcus Gronholm's impressive pace has seen him make a serious dent in the gap to those ahead of him on the leaderboard although he remains in 24th.
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Marcus Gronholm said:
"Our performance has been better today and the second stage this morning was the best so far for me. It's a nice flowing road and I like to drive it so I thought maybe I could win that one. I have not driven this car for such a long time though and I was braking a little too early. I hope we can keep going at the same pace for the rest of the day and get some good times."
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
"We changed the gearbox last night and although that cost us some time the car feels really good today. We had problems on the first stage with the window misting up but everything is ok now so I think it will be fine for the rest of the day. We are feeling much more comfortable now and I think we can go well this afternoon because I like driving the stages. I want to try and close the gap to Sebastien Ogier as much as possible."
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
"I'm relatively happy with his morning. The car felt fantastic but the changing grip levels on the stages made it tricky in places to be consistent. Our rear tyres were not in the best shape and the snow banks were very soft, so you couldn't lean on them too much. The Sagen stage was amazing, with so many fans there was a great atmosphere. We've got a close battle on with Mads so we'll be looking to push on and try and get that place."
-source: stobart m-sport