Finns... Can only get better for Stobart The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team have again excelled at this weekend's Rallye de France - Tour de Corse, round 13 of the FIA World Rally Championship. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila have been ...
Finns... Can only get better for Stobart
The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team have again excelled at this weekend's Rallye de France - Tour de Corse, round 13 of the FIA World Rally Championship. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila have been the stars of the show, finishing with a tarmac-best fourth place overall helping their Stobart team stay in contention for third place in the Manufacturers' Championship.
Team-mates Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud put in a solid effort to finish ninth and gain two manufacturer points while Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr were set for a top-ten spot until a problem with the transmission on the penultimate stage of the rally forced them to retire from the event.
Weather conditions stayed a treat for competitors on all three legs of Rallye de France, in contrast to those at Rally Catalunya last weekend which saw challenging, mixed conditions. Rain had threatened Saturday afternoon but fortunately for WRC crews the French island held it's typically dry Mediterranean climate.
The total 359 kilometres of special stage action covered 16 stages to both the north and south of Rally HQ in Port CCI, Ajaccio. Roads were a mixed bag of wide, smooth lanes crossed with very abrasive narrow sections, both of which contained numerous bends keeping the event true to its historical alias; 'The Rally of Ten Thousand Corners'.
As the dolphins rolled into Ajaccio bay so did WRC crews for the final service today before teams began the swift packing-up process to catch the late-night ferry this evening. The event was run faultlessly with the only drama coming on the opening stage of the rally when it was cancelled due to spectator issues.
The two flying Finns have once again exceeded team expectations by putting in what has been one of their best performances to-date. Latvala showed a perfect balance of maturity and top-class driving to finish with his equal best result in the WRC and ahead of both factory Subaru's. The 22-year-old slowly climbed the leaderboard all weekend finally winning a fierce battle with Petter Solberg to take five valuable driver and manufacturer points.
Solberg came out of the event greatly matured in tarmac driving, continually improving over every stage this weekend. The Norwegian has been spending a lot of time practising on asphalt this year after competing on his first ever tarmac event at Rally Monte Carlo in January. He had no major issues throughout this rally and will take the experience gained here to Japan and Ireland which are both events Solberg will be competing on for the first time in his illustrious career.
Twenty-year-old Wilson was looking good for yet another top-ten finish until disaster struck on the penultimate Penitencier Coti -- Pietre Rossa stage when he lost all drive 3.8 kilometres in, and was unable to get his car re-started. It was an unlucky end for the young Brit, after showing a steady improvement throughout the rally a top-ten finish would have been justly deserved.
The fourth Stobart entered crew for Rallye de France were young Italian pair Alessandro Bettega/Simone Scattolin who were running inside the top-ten on Friday until retirement from leg one meant an eleventh place finish. The Stobart team now head to Rally Japan in two weeks, still only seven points behind manufacturer Subaru as they continue to push for a podium spot in the 2007 Manufacturers' Championship.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:
"This has been a fantastic day for me and a very important mark in my career. This is my best performance and best result on asphalt so far but the most important thing is my improvement on asphalt driving. I have been concentrating very hard on driving better, more controlled and less aggressive, and it really has been working. We came here with a lot of confidence from Spain which helped with our car set-up to start the rally. In Spain I was over three minutes behind the winner and now I am just over two behind, so the improvement is easy to see. I didn't concentrate on beating Petter today, I wasn't getting any of his split times, but just wanted to drive well and give my best performance. This has worked and I'm so pleased with this rally."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
"The most important thing for me on this event was to finish and get the experience of both the stages and the asphalt surface. This was a new rally for me and I needed to finish; this is exactly what I have done. I have learnt so much in the last two weekends about driving on asphalt, my driving style and how my car should feel on these stages. Realistically this is the best job I could have done as I have completed all the stages and without any problems with the car. Both myself and Jari-Matti have scored more points here for the Stobart team and this is also important for me; being consistent and scoring points."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
"This has been another good event for me from an experience point of view. We have learnt quite a bit regarding suspension settings for these stages and I have been trying to improve my driving style over the last two asphalt rallies. I made a mistake here last year and didn't get the experience of all the stages and I was determined not to do the same thing again. It was disappointing to not finish, especially after having got up inside the top-ten but it's been great to cover all the stages competitively; it has been a massive help to me and I feel much more confident with the car now on asphalt."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Alessandro Bettega said:
"For me, this was one of my best events by far. We had so much expectation at the start and I wasn't pushing hard. I tried to concentrate on my driving in this car as this was a huge opportunity for me. It was a shame about our problem on Friday but my times on all three days have really pleased me and to finish eleventh overall is a fantastic personal result for myself and Simone."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"Jari-Matti has put in an incredible performance here. The way he has withstood the pressure today has been fantastic and the times he has set over all three days have been consistent and very quick indeed. We didn't give him any split times to Petter today but for sure this battle was in the back of his mind and he handled it superbly and with a mature head. Again it is impressive to have got both scoring cars in the manufacturer points and Henning has had a solid drive over the last two events. It's a shame for Matthew not to finish here but he has been over all the stages competitively and has the experience of another specialised event."