Impressive Wilson moves up Acropolis field Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson produced an outstanding performance on day two of the Acropolis Rally of Greece, climbing 14 places to put himself back in contention to score manufacturer...
Impressive Wilson moves up Acropolis field
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson produced an outstanding performance on day two of the Acropolis Rally of Greece, climbing 14 places to put himself back in contention to score manufacturer points for the team as the rally reaches its climax tomorrow. But it was a day of mixed fortunes for the Stobart team as Henning Solberg fell victim to the exceptionally rough conditions and was forced to retire with broken suspension.
After experiencing some of the classic Acropolis Rally stages to the north of Rally HQ in Loutraki on day one, the second day represented new territory for all of the 44 starters as the rally moved to the south-west of Service Park for two passes over a three-stage loop through the Peloponnese region.
The 189.16kms of stages to the south of the Gulf of Corinth, turned out to be some of the toughest of the FIA World Rally Championship season so far, with attrition rates high over the day. As the loose surface was cleared by the front runners those starting further down the field had to contend with large rocks in the road and suspension problems were rife. Tyre wear was also an issue as the temperature remained high but the Pirelli Scorpion gravel tyres stood up well to the formidable challenge.
Wilson put the disappointment of yesterday's oil pressure problem behind him early on as he set some blistering times on the opening stages of the day. Starting in 32nd place the young Briton had good road position but still had to avoid the hazardous rocks that littered the stages. On the 17.25km SS7, Klenia Mycenae 1, he set the second fastest time as he began to scythe through the field on his mission to collect manufacturer points for the team.
Top-five times in SS8 and the final stage of the morning SS9, where a stall cost him a few seconds, moved Wilson up nine places to 23rd. With the chance to score drivers' championship points gone, Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin are using the rally to gain valuable experience and showed that they are already learning fast as they posted the third quickest time on the final stage of the day to climb a further five places to 18th overall.
Following his solid start to the rally, Solberg had set himself up with an excellent road position for day two, starting fifth. After making some adjustments to the set-up of his car overnight he had a steady start to day two tackling the loose, slippery stages comfortably and maintaining his overall position. But the Norwegian's challenge was brought to an abrupt halt on SS9 Kefalari 1, the final stage of the morning loop. With Dani Sordo's damaged Citroen parked at the side of the road after hitting a large rock, Solberg adjusted his line to avoid the stricken car but clipped the same rock which broke the front right suspension on his Ford Focus RS WRC putting an end to his day.
Solberg and co-driver Cato Menkerud will re-enter tomorrow under SupeRally conditions as they look to score points for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team. The surviving crews face a final 95.26kms tomorrow over five stages to the east of Loutraki. Before reaching the finish at the Casino Loutraki the cars will make two passes over Aghili Teodori which, at 33kms, is the longest stage of the rally.
Other rally news
BP Ford Abu Dhabi are well-placed to close the gap to Citroen at the top of the manufacturers' standings with Mikko Hirvonen taking a sizable lead into the final day and Jari-Matti Latvala currently lying in third place overall.
Citroen had their worst day of the season so far as Sebastien Loeb crashed out on the first stage and Dani Sordo hit a rock which ended his day on SS9. But Citroen Junior's Sebastien Ogier, Evgeny Novikov and Conrad Rautenbach have shone in the tough conditions and go into the final day in second, fourth and fifth place respectively.
Petter Solberg looked set to grab yet another podium finish to add to his tally so far this season but a suspension failure on SS11 lost him valuable time and dropped him out of the top-10. But Munchi's Ford driver Federico Villagra has used his experience to avoid the problems that have hit so many other crews and is set to take another strong points finishing starting the final day in sixth place overall.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
"After the problems we had yesterday I'm pleased to say that we've had a very positive day today. We were very close to getting the fastest time on the first stage this morning and the rest of the day has been just as good. This afternoon was quite rough, especially the middle stage of the loop which was hard on the car and the driver. We were always having to think about tyre wear but it turned out to be not as bad as we thought it was going to be. It's good experience to learn to drive with that in mind. It was definitely the hardest day of the rally but it's positive for us to post consistent top-five times. We can see from the changing leaderboard that anything can happen, though, so we have to stay focussed and bring it home safely."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
"I'm very disappointed. We stayed out of trouble all day yesterday so I'm really cross that this happened on just the third stage of the day today. We were forced too far to the inside of the corner as someone was warning us about Sordo's car which we couldn't see stopped around the bend. It's very frustrating but everything is fixed on the car now so I'm looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow. With everything that has happened today we are still in with a chance of scoring points for the team so that's what we'll be aiming for."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"This tough event has really bitten back today and unfortunately Henning fell foul of the demanding conditions. After his clever drive yesterday, it's a pity that he hit the same rock as Sordo; but today was always going to be the hardest. However Matthew has set a string of solid top-five times today and has been consistently quick on a day that has caught out some of the world's top drivers. With both cars scoring manufacturer points, tomorrow will be a day to consolidate both positions."