Solberg Leads Way For Stobart On German Soil
Henning Solberg leads the way for the M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team at the end of a challenging first day on asphalt at ADAC Rallye Deutschland.
Four M-Sport Stobart crews left the rally base in Trier this morning to journey north-east of Germany’s oldest city close to the scenic Mosel river. The drivers tackled a repeat loop of three speed tests totalling 133.14 km in their Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Cars which were separated by a 30 minute service back in Trier.
After eight consecutive gravel events, the ninth round of the WRC is the first all-asphalt round of the season and is the first time that the Fiesta RS WRC has been competitive in full tarmac spec. The German edition of the WRC also marks the first time that a choice between the hard or soft compound Michelin Pilot Sport tyre has been on offer to WRC drivers.
Despite no test prior to Germany, Solberg and co-driver Ilka Minor had an impressive run on today’s stages, reporting only a minor issue with over-heating brakes. Solberg contested last year’s ADAC Rallye Deutschland in the Ford Fiesta S2000 but the extra power of the Ford Fiesta RS WRC caused no problems for the Norwegian who has not driven a World Rally Car on asphalt since 2009.
Britain’s Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin lie 12th despite difficulties finding a good feeling on the slippery sealed surface. The duo made the decision to run on soft compound tyres for the repeat afternoon pass in an attempt to find a better feeling but the dry road conditions made it difficult for Wilson to challenge for more competitive stage times.
Former J-WRC champion Aaron Burkart made a strong start on his debut in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC but encountered difficulties after damaging the car’s brake pipe on the day’s closing stage. Burkart stopped on the stage but significant time loss meant the decision was made for the German driver to SupeRally. Burkart and fellow countryman Andre Kachel will return for the second day of action tomorrow.
Mads Østberg battled back after a costly mistake on Stage 3 saw the Norwegian driver run wide on a left-hand corner, hit a kerb and damage the car’s rear right suspension. The incident forced Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson to stop and block the rear right brake, losing the Scandinavian duo over eight minutes. The rear right suspension was changed at the midday service and a trouble-free afternoon followed for Østberg who is now looking to gain valuable experience driving on asphalt. The driver lies 27th overnight.
Henning Solberg said:
“I’m trying to go as fast as I can and I really want to get up to the top five by the end of this rally. This afternoon has been going better compared to this morning and I have been taking it stage by stage which seems to work best for me. The main difficulty today has been my brakes but I do not like today’s stages so much – they are very twisty so it’s difficult to find a good rhythm. I prefer tomorrow’s stages, they are faster and more flowing which suits my driving style better. It has not been easy today but I am still here and I’m still happy, so that is good.”
Matthew Wilson said:
“Today has just been one of the days. It’s been frustrating and obviously opting for soft tyres was not the best choice for this afternoon but it was agreed that we would give them a go because it would help me to find more feeling in the car. The softer tyres worked well for me in the vineyard sections where there are a lot of corners but it’s been difficult to find a good rhythm in the more twisty sections. Tomorrow is set to be dry so the conditions should suit us better and it won’t make tyre choice an issue. I want to find a good feeling with the car tomorrow and some faster stage times should hopefully follow.”
Mads Østberg said:
“OK, so I made a bit of a silly mistake on Stage 3. My pacenotes told me to follow the lines in the road at a left-hand corner but I was running a bit wide and there was a lot of loose gravel over the road. I think I hit a kerb and this damaged the suspension and brake disc so I completely lost the brakes. We had to stop and block that rear right brake but we lost a lot of time. For sure, I am disappointed but at least we are still in the rally. We have not been trying to overdo anything this afternoon - asphalt is a surface I need to learn more about as I have barely any experience driving on it so it’s all about keeping the car on the road, learning the stages and learning more about the surface.”
Aaron Burkart said:
“I am happy with how everything was going this morning. I was enjoying myself and gradually improving my times but then on Stage 4 we had some small electrical problems with the car. I’m not quite sure what it was but we lost quite a bit of time there. The next one went OK for us but then on Stage 6 we ran over a big stone about half way into the stage which damaged our brake pipe. We stopped to try and see what we could do but we lost about nine minutes so it made more sense to SupeRally than to try and reach the end of the stage. Tomorrow we must try again and I hope we can challenge for some faster stage times.”