Stobart stars slide up the leaderboard in Cyprus The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team had plenty to be positive about at the end of day two of the Cyprus Rally with Matthew Wilson on course for his best finish of the season so far after...
Stobart stars slide up the leaderboard in Cyprus
The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team had plenty to be positive about at the end of day two of the Cyprus Rally with Matthew Wilson on course for his best finish of the season so far after moving up three places to end the day in fifth overall and Henning Solberg posting the second quickest time on the last stage of the day.
Day one had been tinged with disappointment for the Cumbria-based team following Solberg's early exit and as Wilson had trouble finding his rhythm on the asphalt stages. But it was a different story on day two as both cars made an impression on the rest of the field out-pacing even those drivers at the front of the pack who were fighting for the overall lead on the afternoon stages.
Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin went storming through the field coping well with the slippery, mud-covered roads on the morning stages where other drivers faltered and set excellent times on the winding mountain stages in the afternoon. Meanwhile Solberg lit up the field with his hard-charging run on the final stage posting the second fastest time.
With his Ford Focus RS WRC back on a full gravel set-up Wilson began the day steadily, but came into his own on SS8 Pano Panagia as he kept the car on the road in exceptionally muddy conditions caused by heavy overnight rainfall. By the end of the morning the young Briton had overhauled Sebastien Ogier and Evgeny Novikov to lie in fifth place.
Solberg and co-driver Cato Menkerud started the day on the back foot after missing all of day one following their crash. The Norwegian was sixth in the slippery conditions of SS8 and achieved a top-ten finish on SS9 Orkontas despite picking up a puncture a couple of kilometres from the end.
But it was on the afternoon stages where both Stobart VK M-Sport Ford drivers really shone as conditions changed dramatically from the morning moving from wet, muddy roads to the drier, winding gravel stages that the Cyprus Rally is normally known for.
Wilson finished third on the 30.94 kilometre SS10 Xyliatos just 8.3 seconds behind stage winner Petter Solberg and setting a fastest split time in the process.
Then on the final stage of the day, the 26.25 kilometre SS11 Kourdali, Solberg made his presence felt; taking advantage of the cleaner surface to finish in second place just eight seconds behind his brother.
Tomorrow the drivers begin with the 30 kilometre SS12 Foini before facing the longest stage of the rally the 40.54 kilometre SS13 Anadiou. These two stages are split by a short 15 minute remote service so drivers will be keen to have a clean run with minimal disruption for their Stobart team mechanics.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
"I felt like I was playing catch-up as this morning was my first stage when everyone else has had a full day out there. But this afternoon it felt much better. The car felt much sharper than this morning and having a clean line on the stages helped improve our times. It was good to finish on a high with second place in the final stage and hopefully tomorrow we'll be able to repeat the same kind of performance."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
"Today has been great. The conditions were very slippery this morning and I think we caught a few people napping early on. The stages are very long but seem even longer with corner after corner and you have to keep your concentration. Tomorrow will still be a tough day. The long stage on the recce was very tricky and after the rain last night there could be some muddy patches to catch us out."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"It has been a really strong, solid day for Matthew and he has made steady progress in really tricky conditions this morning. He's managed to move up three places during the day and is now the top non-factory driver with the exception of former World Champion Petter Solberg. Matthew and Henning have both shown signs of strong performances with Matthew third on one stage this afternoon and Henning second on another. There could well be a sting in the tail tomorrow, however, with two long stages still to come."