Solberg Moves Up To Eighth On Fast French Soil

Henning Solberg and Ilka Minor, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team
Henning Solberg and Ilka Minor, Ford Fiesta RS WRC, M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team

Photo by: xpb.cc

M-Sport Stobart Ford’s Norwegian contingent of Henning Solberg and Mads Østberg hold eighth and ninth respectively in their Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Cars after the second day of action at Rallye de France Alsace.

The Cumbria-based team travelled south to the Haut-Rhin region where the crews tackled

two identical loops of four asphalt speed tests totalling 145 km in the Vosges mountains. The stages were separated by a 30 minute remote service in Colmar – hometown of the sculptor Frédéric Bartholdi who designed the Statue of Liberty – and the day closed with a short 3.09 km street stage in the city of Mulhouse.

Solberg and co-driver Ilka Minor reported a problem with overheating brakes during the first pass, especially during the 24.02 km Grand Ballon stage where they nearly collided with a wild pig on the road. The team bled the brakes during the remote service and Solberg was hot on the heels of Armindo Araujo throughout the repeat afternoon pass. The Norwegian driver is 16.8 seconds adrift of seventh place going into the final day.

Østberg and Swedish co-driver Jonas Andersson had an unlucky morning when they suffered a slow puncture at the start of Stage 12 and lost over two minutes. The incident dropped the Scandinavian pairing back to tenth. Stage 13 saw Østberg run wide and lose time when his wheel rim was filled with mud. Two top five stage times, however, were a consolation and the four-time Norwegian Rally Champion finished the day ninth, 50.8 seconds behind Solberg.

Britain’s Matthew Wilson started the day 15th after steering and handling problems made the going difficult during yesterday’s stages. The 24-year-old suffered a similar fate today when he reported difficulties with steering and an intermittent misfire towards the end of the day. Despite these problems, Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin successfully climbed the overall WRC leaderboard to finish the second day in 12th position.

Evgeny Novikov and co-driver Denis Giraudet had an unlucky morning after they collided with a chicane on Stage 11 and were forced to call it a day after significant front-right damage to their Ford Fiesta RS WRC. Novikov will restart for the final day of action at Rallye de France tomorrow under SupeRally regulations.

Mads Østberg said:
“This morning we felt something strange with the car – there were some big vibrations but it seems to have sorted itself now. We’ve had some good stages this afternoon but we’ve struggled with the rhythm a little. I’m marginally more disappointed compared to how I was feeling last night – mainly because we lost one minute with the puncture yesterday but two minutes with the puncture today. Time wise it’s going quite well but there’s still a lot to do. I must admit it has been difficult to smile today at times but I am happy with my driving when everything in the car is working fine.”

Henning Solberg said:
“We are going in the right direction – we will try to push for the top six. For sure, I am happy and I try my best all the time. We nearly hit a big black pig on the last stage this morning, it was very close! It is difficult not having a gravel crew and now there has been a lot of gravel that has been pulled onto the road too which is an added difficulty. I felt like there was no grip in the rear of the car this afternoon so we will soften the car and raise the ride height at service tonight. We will need maximum traction and control ahead of tomorrow.”

Matthew Wilson said:
“It’s been very frustrating today to be honest. I’ve just not had a good feeling at all. The steering was feeling very light this morning - the car seems to be working quite well now but I’m just finding it hard to find the right pace. We had a puncture and a spin on Stage 16 which cost us some time but it’s not been the best of days. Now I will try to stay positive, we’re still here and I just need to keep the momentum going for tomorrow’s stages.”

Evgeny Novikov said:
“Today we went straight into some hay bales - I don’t know how it happened exactly as I haven’t had the chance to see the onboard footage yet. I am disappointed for sure, especially as this is my first time driving the Ford Fiesta RS WRC competitively on asphalt – I wanted to finish the rally with as much experience of the surface before we go to Spain. We will return tomorrow as the team have worked hard to fix the car and I will try to make the most of the time we have left.”