Round four of the 2008 FIA World Rally Championship kicks off next Friday as crews head to South America for Rally Argentina. The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team head into the event currently fourth in the Manufacturers' Championship with Gigi...
Round four of the 2008 FIA World Rally Championship kicks off next Friday as crews head to South America for Rally Argentina. The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team head into the event currently fourth in the Manufacturers' Championship with Gigi Galli/Giovanni Bernacchini and Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud both nominated point scorers.
Team-mates Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin also travel to the American continent in a confident fashion after a superb sixth place in Mexico earlier this month.
Argentina is a special event for Galli as it is the stomping ground where he achieved his first ever WRC podium back in 2006, finishing third. This will be the Italian's third attempt at Rally Argentina as he searches for yet another good result this year after a podium in Sweden and quick pace in Mexico before retirement. Despite his retirement in Mexico Galli still remains a well positioned fifth in the Drivers' Championship.
Returning to the Stobart squad after a spell with the Munchi's Ford World Rally Team on round three, Solberg will be looking to continue his form in America which has already seen him pick up fifth, and score his first 2008 drivers' point, in Mexico. Argentina is historically a memorable place for the Norwegian also, as it is where he achieved his first ever stage win as a driver in 2006 (SS16).
Rally Argentina seems to be the place of milestones for this Stobart team with Wilson too achieving his first ever WRC stage win (SS22), and first ever drivers' point, here in 2006. This will be the 21-year-old's third attempt at the event and his first in the 2007 spec Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC. The young Brit currently occupies 10th in the Drivers' Championship.
This year Rally Argentina has been moved forward in the calendar but will be slightly cooler than Mexico, creating another test for the all-new Pirelli Scorpion gravel tyre, which will take a greater effort by drivers to generate heat and subsequent grip. Like Mexico, however, stage altitudes are quite high, robbing world rally cars of precious horsepower in the thin air.
Lunar like landscapes are what gives Rally Argentina its uniqueness as stages elevate over 2000 metres on the final day of competition. This year competitors will be hoping for dryer conditions with torrential downpours cancelling all of last year's leg 1 stages after several WRC crews were left stranded at Buenos Aires airport after the ceremonial start on Thursday night. Numerous water-splashes make this event a dream for spectators as competitors fly through the fords often at maximum speed.
With a long reconnaissance this year both Galli and Wilson will be stretching their legs at 14:30 on Thursday afternoon in a traditional Argentine game of Paddle Tennis at the Portal del Largo Hotel (Rally HQ). The guys hope they will be able to game, set and match the speed of their challengers when the rally starts in earnest on Friday morning.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Gigi Galli said:
"I'm really happy to go back to Argentina. I have very good memories of the rally, not only because it's where we got our first podium but also because of the fans; there are so many and you can feel their warmth. This is going to be the second race on gravel but is going to be different from Mexico. There, the stages were fast with a hard surface, while Argentina's special stages are twisty with a soft and dirtier surface. It is going to be cooler than in Mexico and the tyres will take a little bit longer to get to the right temperature. Furthermore Argentina is famous for water splashes and this also will cool down tyres, so we have to consider this factor too. It's been a pity we couldn't finish Rally Mexico, it would have been helpful to get to know better the Ford Focus's behaviour on gravel. Anyway we are ready for this new challenge and we hope to find again the good performances of the first two races. I'm also looking forward to the famous Argentine steaks, I love them!"
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
"I have only done this event twice before but both times I have finished in the points so it is an event I will try to do very well on. We had a good result in Mexico even though we had some problems so hopefully we can continue our form into Rally Argentina which is a similar surface. We changed a few things around with the car in Mexico and it feels good on gravel so my plan will be to go flat out and see what we can do. This can be a tough rally especially if it rains like last year because the surface can be very slippery. I am starting with a good road position on Friday and if it stays dry this will help a lot. I will try my best here and see if I can get some more drivers' points."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
"Hopefully this year we will have a bit more luck in Argentina and a cleaner run after a fairly eventful rally last season. Not doing all the stages last year might put us at a slight advantage because I don't have the knowledge like on other events. 2006, however, was a great year and is where I scored my first drivers' point and WRC stage win. It's going to be a nice change to run in a warmer part of the year but like last year the weather is just so unpredictable you have to expect everything. I have always liked coming to Argentina and I'm looking forward to the rally next week and hopefully we'll be able to score some more good points following on from Mexico."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"All three drivers in the Stobart team have strong links with this event and all have a fantastic opportunity to even better their previous best. The event is running warmer this year and will be more demanding on crews especially with high altitude stages like Mexico. Henning returns to score manufacturer points in Argentina which will strengthen the team and Gigi has shown in the past what he can do here and his pace in Mexico was very promising before his retirement. Matthew has shown a good improvement this year and hopefully he will continue on with his form from Mexico and have another points finish here."