Latvala dominates the timesheets for Stobart on Rally GB
The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team have shown once again they will be a future force to be reckoned with after a stunning display on leg 2 of Wales Rally GB, the final round of the 2007 FIA World Rally Championship.
Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila have put day 1 woes behind them and shattered the field today by winning every forest stage and advancing themselves back with a chance of a top-ten finish. Joining in the splendour were team-mates Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr who have put in one of the best legs of their career, with consistently fast pace, to finish the day in seventh overall.
Conditions today were a pleasant change in contrast to the vicious weather conditions seen in Swansea yesterday. Roads were consistently quick with spurts of rain throughout the day keeping the surface muddy and at times, extremely slippery.
The 104.48 kilometres of competitive distance which made up today’s second leg took competitors twice over three special stages to the north of HQ in the Crychan Forest. The day was then run to completion in front of huge spectator numbers under the roof of the world famous Millennium Stadium for the 1.1 kilometre Cardiff super special.
Britain’s only fulltime WRC driver has again come a long way in this rally, setting stage times inside the top-ten on every occasion to be just ten seconds behind sixth place. Even more impressive is his comparison to the top drivers which for the majority of stages was less than one second a kilometre off the pace.
The day was not all smiles for the 20-year-old however with a few big moments over the leg’s tests and the youngster admitting some of his notes, especially in the slower sections, were perhaps too ambitious for his driving. Wilson is now in a strong position to score drivers’ points for the third consecutive event; something that will certainly boost the confidence heading into his third full championship year in 2008.
Latvala’s effort was a fantastic achievement with the clean-sweep almost doubling his total WRC career stage-win count. The Finn drove faultlessly throughout the day showing a level head despite retiring from leg 1 on the final stage with a dysfunctional wiper-blade.
The 22-year-old now sits less than one minute from a top-ten position in 12th and maintains a point scoring position in the manufacturers’ championship.
Norwegian Henning Solberg has used the day to experiment with his Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC06 and try some alternative driving styles on the tricky gravel surface. This was due to his retirement from leg 1 also, which saw him take a ten minute penalty under SupeRally regulations, spoiling the chance of a top result.
The decision to try new things seemed to pay off for Solberg on the timesheets as he racked up a sixth fastest time on stage 9 followed by a well driven fourth fastest time on the 13.76 kilometre Epynt 2 test.
Tomorrow’s action sees a tricky two-stage loop which is repeated in the afternoon before the finish in Cardiff.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
“It has been going OK today but we are just getting through and seeing what we can do. I have been trying a new driving style today and basically using the day as a bit of a test. Today has been much better than yesterday and at least now I can see out of the windscreen. I will try and concentrate more on my driving as I have a better feeling today and hopefully we can improve on this tomorrow. There was a bit of fog on the last stage and our lights were a bit too high which lost us some time but I have set some good times today which I am happy with. I will try my best tomorrow and finish the event which is very important; to have as much experience in the world rally car as possible.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:
“It has been a great feeling today. The car has done everything it is designed to do and the tyres were perfect so I can’t ask for much more. It is disappointing about yesterday but these things happen and it is good to get back out today and important to get a good balance with the car for future events. It was definitely an advantage being third on the road here as the grip levels were good and the road conditions more pleasant. I have just been very relaxed today and had no big moments as I have had no reason to push hard so to produce these times is a great feeling. I will try and keep the same feeling tomorrow and see if we can keep it going.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
“I’m really pleased with how today has gone and it has been a great battle between Chris [Atkinson] and myself all day. We have had no big mistakes all day and it has just had a nice rhythm to it. We lost a little bit of time on the last stage as one of the lights began to flicker but apart from that the car has been perfect. We still need to tidy up on the slower stuff but ok it has gone pretty well and it’s lots of fun out there. Generally the feeling is very good, the car is working well and the confidence is high as a result. The road surface has also been more consistent today which has helped. I think the gap to Chris is still close enough to challenge tomorrow but they are two tricky stages, especially if it is wet, so we will have to wait and see what happens in the morning.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“Sensation of the day has been Jari, fastest on all the gravel stages is a great performance and it really sends out a message as to where he would have been without his problems from yesterday. Matthew has again continued to impress today; he has been in a really close battle with Chris Atkinson and they have never been more than a few seconds apart all day. He has really stepped up a gear and has moved ahead of other drivers of similar experience. Henning has completed today without any problems and all three cars have run faultlessly today without any problems.”