Stobart aim for perfect home performance as season peaks in Wales A successful season for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team comes to an exciting climax next week as the team prepares to celebrate its best year ever at its home event, the...
Stobart aim for perfect home performance as season peaks in Wales
A successful season for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team comes to an exciting climax next week as the team prepares to celebrate its best year ever at its home event, the thrilling final round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Rally GB. Matthew Wilson is already assured of his best ever points total for a WRC season, but is aiming to put on a sensational show for his home crowd. Meanwhile, team mate Henning Solberg needs to earn five points to equal his best ever finish to a season, and will be gunning for a podium spot.
Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin will be flying the flag for Great Britain on their home event looking to build on the team's popularity which reached a peak on this event last year as the Stobart squad celebrated its 50th WRC rally with MotoGP star Valentino Rossi joining the team.
At just 22 years of age, Wilson will be taking part in the rally for the sixth time, and for the fourth time with co-driver Martin, so has plenty experience of the tricky Welsh stages. With 25 points to his name already this season the young Brit has delivered the performance improvements that he targeted at the start of the season, but is keen to finish the year with a flourish, aiming to match his best performance of the season, fifth place. The young star will be running with Help for Heroes decals on his Ford Focus RS WRC in support of the charity which helps wounded members of the armed forces.
Solberg and co-driver Cato Menkerud are also in with a chance of completing their best ever WRC season. Having already picked up two podium finishes so far this year the Norwegians will be aiming to upset the pecking order to take yet another podium spot in Cardiff. Solberg has shown strong form on gravel this season, and is always a firm favourite with the crowds thanks to his exuberant driving style, but despite that, he has never finished inside the points in eight attempts at Rally GB.
Solberg and Wilson will be joined in the team by Steve Perez and co-driver Paul Spooner. Perez, owner of the team's title sponsor VK and sponsor of the Kick Energy Fiesta SportTrophy UK, earned an impressive top-20 finish at Rally GB last year.
This year's edition of the classic season finale sees the event Service Park move from Swansea to Cardiff Bay where the teams will be based close to the Wales Millennium Centre. Much of the rally route remains the same as last year although changes have been made within many of the narrow but fast stages.
With the rally taking place over a month earlier than its traditional end of year position on the calendar weather conditions are expected to be warmer and drier than normal. But the unpredictable British autumn could still play its part in proceedings with the loose gravel stages becoming treacherous in muddy, wet conditions and providing another tough test for the team's Pirelli Scorpion gravel tyres.
While Rally HQ is based in Cardiff, Friday's action will see the crews head north to mid-Wales where they will face some of the classic Welsh forest stages in Myherin, Hafren and the fantastic spectator arena at Sweet Lamb. The day is made up of two passes over a three-stage loop punctuated by a remote service in Builth Wells adding an extra element of difficulty for the teams.
Day Two features two passes over the longest stage of the rally, the 35.72km Rhondda test, helping to make the day the longest of the rally at 138.16kms.
But Day Three sees the crews stay close to Cardiff for a short 79.84km closing day before reaching the finish podium in the Welsh capital.
Rally GB will also decide this year's WRC Drivers' Championship with BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Mikko Hirvonen currently holding a one point lead over Sebastien Loeb in the driver standings and hunting down his first-ever drivers' title.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team news since Rallye de Espana
Matthew Wilson has been heavily involved in the testing and development of M-Sport's new Ford Fiesta S2000 rally car, taking on testing duties near the company's Cumbria base. As the only full-time British driver in the WRC, Wilson has also been busy with media commitments in the run up to his home event.
Henning Solberg has been taking part in a celebrity TV cooking programme back in his native Norway and both he and Cato Menkerud have been involved in the organisation of a major motorsport show which will take place in Norway in November.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
"It is such a great opportunity that we get to finish each WRC season on home territory in front of British fans and I hope that I can go out there and produce a really good performance. We've had a great season and made a lot of progress so it would be fantastic to underline that with a strong performance at home. All of the top eight drivers have got something to play for really so we'll just be going flat out to get the best result that we can to give the fans a great result to cheer about."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
"I am really looking forward to this rally. I struggled on the Tarmac in Spain despite making some improvements and I can't wait to get back on a surface that I love. I have never finished in the points at Rally GB, but I came so close to getting an excellent result there last year until the last day when I suffered a suspension breakage after hitting a rock. That was so disappointing and I would like to make up for it this year. We have had a really fantastic season, as has the team, and it's important to finish well for all my sponsors."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"It has already been a fantastic season for the Stobart team, but it would be very special to finish with a good result in Wales. Matthew has made big strides forward this season in both pace and consistency and hopefully he can finish in a really strong position at his home event as a reward for that progress. Henning has produced some great performances, but has suffered some bad luck along the way, so I know that he would love to achieve another podium this year and he will be going all-out to do that."