STOBART FINISH WITH A FLOURISH IN FOCUS
STOBART M-Sport Ford's Henning Solberg and Matthew Wilson finished sixth and seventh respectively at Wales Rally GB, their final World Rally Championship event in the Ford Focus RS World Rally Car.
Both drivers reported that the incessant rain and muddy conditions made the going difficult at the final round of this year's FIA World Rally Championship.
"The stages were so slippery this weekend and we had a lot of understeer especially on the first day," admitted Wilson. "The pace of the top five drivers was very fast and it was difficult to try and match those times in such treacherous conditions."
Despite tricky road conditions, Britain's leading WRC driver still managed to rack up six driver points and consolidated his seventh place finish in this year's drivers' championship standings.
Stobart M-Sport Ford's other nominated point-scoring crew of Henning Solberg and Stephane Prevot finished sixth, one place off their best ever finish on British soil. The Norwegian driver finishes the season eighth in the overall standings -- 28 points behind Wilson.
The Norwegian driver reported no problems with his Ford Focus RS WRC over the weekend but it was the difficult road conditions that hindered his progress.
"The car has been running perfectly but it was a huge disadvantage to be running further down the field in Wales as the stages were so muddy," he said.
"Tricky is an understatement - we went flat out for most of the rally but I just really don't enjoy the types of conditions we experienced this weekend. We did all that we could but it was very difficult," said Solberg.
Three-time Chinese National Rally Champion Liu Chao Dong made his debut driving a World Rally Car for the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team this weekend. The 25-year-old driver was accompanied by Australian Anthony McLouglin.
But after an exhaust fire forced them to restart under SupeRally rules on the first day, disaster struck for Dong on Stage 17 when the alternator belt on his Ford Focus RS WRC broke.
"It's disappointing to retire on the final day," said Dong. "Compared to China, the stages in Wales have been much faster and very, very slippery. But the car was fantastic -- it was very powerful and I really enjoyed myself despite the unfortunate ending today."
Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"It has been another successful season for the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team and we've had some fantastic highlights this year. The Ford Focus RS WRC has served Matthew and Henning well over the years and has assisted the team in seven podium finishes in the WRC since 2006. It will be missed greatly but we are looking forward to introducing the Ford Fiesta RS WRC to the championship next year. We were delighted that China's Liu Chao Dong joined us for this year's Wales Rally GB over the weekend. He is a very focused individual with years of experience competing in the Chinese Rally Championship (CRC) and he and Anthony did very well considering the treacherous conditions and the fact it was Dong's debut in a World Rally Car."