Solberg staying safe for points
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team crew Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud will head into leg 3 in forth position more than one minute ahead of fifth placed Daniel Carlsson. Also looking to add points to their name is the Finnish crew of Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila who lie in ninth position just 9.2 seconds away from a championship point.
The morning began in Karlstad as competitors left parc ferme in minus-15 degree temperatures, arriving at Hagfors airport Service Park for opening service. As the day progressed competitors were greeted by unseasonably mild weather with welcomed blue skies and afternoon sunshine.
The morning's stages once again proved tricky with a vast presence of loose snow covering the roads. Stud length of the BFGoodrich g-Force ice tyre was an import factor as competitors tackled 141.96 kilometres of competitive route in leg 2, the longest of the rally. The day's rallying played host to the longest test of the event, Liljendal, a 34.54 kilometre high-speed stage just west of Hagfors.
With not one stage being run twice today, loose snowed made conditions very difficult as drivers found it hard to distinguish a good line amongst the fresh snow. Along with this, extremely narrow sections added to the tough stages sending several competitors off the road.
Solberg had a strong day fluctuating between third and fifth positions to finish in fourth behind BP Ford's Mikko Hirvonen. If it wasn't for low lying sun in the last true test of the day, causing the Norwegian to spin, Solberg would have been in a much closer battle with the Finn for third.
Apart from a small gear changing issue in the early loop Solberg drove a sensible day showing a mix of consistency and control. The 34-year-old is in an encouraging position ahead of his home event in Norway next week.
Latvala started the day missing a slight amount of rhythm he needed to push that little bit extra. Limited grip and a warning light inside the car appearing on stage 10 were problems during the morning's loop which caused him to take a cautious approach heading into service E.
After making changes to his Ford Focus RS 06 at lunch-time service, the young driver showed rejuvenation finishing the final three stages in top five positions including a second placing on the 1.87 kilometre Hagfors sprint.
Matthew Wilson had another day of steady rallying finishing the leg in a battle with new Munchi's Ford manufacturer driver Luis Perez Companc. Wilson, and co-driver Michael Orr, drove through the day improving in the mid-section but admitting the final two stages were slightly under-par as the young Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver struggled to find the right style and rhythm to suit the tricky Swedish roads. Wilson will begin tomorrow's final leg in 14th, 0.9 seconds ahead of Companc.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
"There's still a lot of loose snow on the roads which made things a bit unsteady and it was hard to find the grip but still it felt much better today. Stages 11 and 12 were much better for me and probably the nicest stages of the rally so far. I slightly changed my braking technique today and it seemed to settle the car a lot better. I'm looking forward to tomorrow, the long stages are quite nice so it should be good. Otherwise everything's feeling ok, the car is working really well and I'm just going to take it steady and learn more about this tricky surface by finishing the rally."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:
"This morning I was cutting a bit too much and we lost a few studs so I had trouble finding the grip which was difficult on my confidence. A light in the car came on during stage 10 and I was worried about the alternator so we had to turn a few switches off which lost us some time. This is the first time I can smile in this rally! (after SS11) We played with the set-up of the car during morning service and the feeling is much better. I really felt like I could drive to my full potential and the car is starting to work really well for me. I will push tomorrow as the car is feeling really good now."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
"We were slightly slow this morning but the second stage went really well apart from a little slide on the final corner which lost us a few seconds. It was the same corner where my brother (Petter) went off a few years ago and I remember coming up to the corner thinking - I need to be careful here - and the next minute I was in the snow. Today was new stages for everybody and it is very easy to come off the road I promise you. The low sun caught my eyes in stage 14 and I couldn't see anything and had a spin. The car is really great, the tyres are good, co-drivers good, everything is working well so we will see what happens tomorrow."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"It has been a perfect day, I expected Mikko to be in front of Henning but it's still a great performance by him. Both Henning and Jari-Matti have upped their pace and are starting to go really well and are sitting pretty to gain some points for the team. It also sends out a strong message that they will both be quick in Norway. Matt has struggled a bit today with the cars handling but he still needs to finish this rally to get experience and hopefully push some more in Norway."
-credit: stobart m-sport ford