M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team press release
Stobart’S Wilson Set To Equal Best Ever WRC Finish
Britain’s Matthew Wilson is on track to equal his best ever finish in the FIA World Rally Championship after finishing fourth at the end of the second day of Rally Australia for the M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team.
Wilson’s best result in the WRC remains fourth from 2007’s Rally Japan but the 24-year-old has come extremely close to matching this position by running fourth at both Rally Mexico and Vodafone Rally de Portugal in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC earlier this year. Mexico, however, saw Wilson retire after an electrical problem and Portugal saw the English driver drop back to fifth on the final day.
After yesterday’s rain-soaked stages proved treacherously slippery for the WRC crews, today’s stages provided a stark contrast as the sun shone throughout for the ten gravel tests covering 146 km of competitive distance.
Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin had a clear run through the morning pass despite a spin and a reported handling problem on corners. Some differential adjustments were made at the midday service and the British pairing noted a better set-up for the afternoon pass to finish the second day just one spot adrift of the podium.
Henning Solberg had a strong start on Rally Australia’s opening day posting a string of top five stage times. The driver started today’s stages in fourth place but an electrical problem 18 km into Stage 15 caused the disappointed Norwegian to retire. Solberg and co-driver Ilka Minor are expected to return under SupeRally regulations for the final day of action tomorrow.
After hitting a rock yesterday afternoon and breaking the left steering arm on the Ford Fiesta RS WRC, Evgeny Novikov returned to Rally Australia under SupeRally regulations today.
A small incident on Stage 17 caused the Russian driver to clip a banking but despite this Novikov had a strong day and set a series of fast stage times. The 20-year-old started today’s stages in 15th place but steadily progressed up the overall WRC leaderboard to sit tenth going into the final day.
Matthew Wilson said:
“It’s been a good day for us but it’s a shame about Henning - for sure, it’s not the way I like to move up the leaderboard. I feel like we’re stuck in a no man’s land at the moment – we’re too far behind Petter [Solberg] to catch him and we’re over three minutes up on Khalid [Al Qassimi]. We didn’t want to push too much on the last few stages today as there was a lot of loose gravel and it wasn’t worth risking our position. I think it’s going to feel like a long day tomorrow – we just need to do the sensible thing and find the right balance but not pushing too hard to risk losing our fourth place.”
Evgeny Novikov said:
“Everything is good for the moment and I have not been pushing to the maximum. We had a spin 500 m from the end of Stage 14 and lost about ten seconds but everything was much better this afternoon as I felt we had a lot more grip on the roads. My plan was to make to the end of the stages and to improve on each stage. We had a small moment on Stage 17 when we clipped a banking but we kept the car on the road. Tomorrow I will stick to the same plan and aim to finish all the stages with no problems.”
Henning Solberg said:
“I am disappointed to retire but this is how it is sometimes. I was driving at my own speed this morning and trying to control Matthew behind which was going fine. The car was going better and better and I was feeling more confident to push. Then 3 km before the end of Stage 15 our engine cut out and we couldn’t get the car restarted. I think it’s an electrical problem but we won’t know exactly what until the car is properly looked at in service tonight. It should be fine to restart tomorrow and we will be pushing to see how far we can get back up the leader board – there are only six tests left but this includes two 30 km stages so we will try to catch up as much as we can.”