Patience pays dividends for Stobart drivers in Argentina Stobart VK M-Sport Ford drivers Henning Solberg and Matthew Wilson overcame a frustrating morning on the second day of Rally Argentina to secure strong point-scoring positions going into...
Patience pays dividends for Stobart drivers in Argentina
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford drivers Henning Solberg and Matthew Wilson overcame a frustrating morning on the second day of Rally Argentina to secure strong point-scoring positions going into the final five stages of the rally tomorrow. With just 48kms of stages remaining Solberg is lying in fifth and Wilson seventh maintaining the team's strong challenge in the manufacturer championship.
Day two took the crews to some of Rally Argentina's most famous stages, through the lunar landscapes of Mina Clavero and up to the highest stage on the FIA World Rally Championship calendar this year, El Condor.
With two passes over a four-stage loop, the morning stages were slippery from overnight rain while rough, rutted roads were tough on cars and tyres in the afternoon. The conditions provided equal challenges for all of the 49 starters, but the rally lived up to its fickle reputation as it threw some unforeseen tests into the path of the drivers.
Wilson got the first taste of the unpredictable nature of the rally losing valuable seconds on SS10 El Mirador -- San Lorenzo, swerving to avoid a dog that ran into his path.
The Briton, with Scott Martin alongside, and team mate Solberg struggled early in the day with the set-up of their Ford Focus RS WRCs on the rough terrain high in the hills to the west of Villa Carlos Paz. Solberg dropped to sixth place as Jari-Matti Latvala moved up the standings while Wilson, who started the day in seventh place, had his lead over home favourite Federico Villagra slowly eroded until the Argentine leapfrogged him on the last stage of the morning.
Solberg and co-driver Cato Menkerud suffered their share of unforeseen problems in the afternoon as they picked up a left-rear puncture and a loose bonnet on the second pass of El Mirador -- San Lorenzo losing about 30 seconds as they limped to the stage end.
Meanwhile Wilson showed his maturity as he avoided any trouble on the second loop but he could not match the pace of Villagra who used all of his local knowledge to post some extremely fast times on the afternoon stages.
The consistency and patience of both Stobart crews paid dividends midway through the afternoon as some of the roughest conditions seen at Rally Argentina in recent years began to take their toll on the other cars. The withdrawal of leading BP Ford Abu Dhabi contender Mikko Hirvonen from the rally as his engine overheated moved Solberg and Wilson up a place. The Stobart engineers' hard work to resolve both drivers' set-up concerns during the midday service also showed as they posted impressive times on the penultimate stage of the day.
Day two finished with the second of three visits to the Cordoba Stadium for a 2.40km Super Special stage where Solberg was on form again, finishing third just 0.1 seconds behind rally leader Sebastien Loeb.
Tomorrow sees drivers leaving service at 7.30am to tackle four stages before returning to Cordoba for a final run around the stadium.
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After struggling to match the pace of Citroen team mate Dani Sordo on day one, world champion Sebastien Loeb left the rest of the field in no doubt of his status as the world's best driver as he moved up from third place to hold a 58.6s lead going into the final leg.
BP Ford Abu Dhabi's title hopes suffered a blow as Mikko Hirvonen was forced to retire on SS15 as his engine overheated. Jari-Matti Latvala is now the sole challenger for the team lying in third place. Petter Solberg's hopes of taking a podium were hit when he lost time on SS14 with a puncture.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
"It's been a tough day and we struggled early on with the dampers. We changed them overnight as a precaution and they just didn't feel the same this morning and it meant we lost some time as the stages today were very technical and twisty. We changed them back to the originals in service and it got better for the second pass. But Federico is pushing hard, he obviously knows the stages well and it's been a great fight with him today. I've been too cautious on the rough sections and it's difficult to know exactly how hard to drive on them so that's really where I've lost out this afternoon. The stages have been packed with spectators today and it really is incredible how many people have come to watch this rally."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
"I'm happy with my pace this afternoon and things have felt better after the changes we made at service. This morning's stages were hard work as the road was very slippery after the overnight rain and we were finding it hard to get the car to turn into the corners. That isn't ideal, especially on these twisty stages, but it was better this afternoon; I started to left foot brake more to get the car turned in. I think we hit the same rock as Petter as we both had a puncture in the same place."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"The Stobart team have put in another strong performance and avoided trouble when others have succumbed to the rough conditions. The cars have taken some big knocks but the Focus is a strong car and the guys are clever enough to look after it as well. We are in a stronger manufacturer points position than yesterday also. Matthew is in a fantastic battle with Federico and he's doing well to keep up with him; Federico knows these stages well and is really spurred on by the local fans."