Stobart drivers geared up for Argentine assault Stobart VK M-Sport Ford drivers Matthew Wilson and Henning Solberg are bound for South America as round five of the FIA World Rally Championship moves away from Europe for the first time this...
Stobart drivers geared up for Argentine assault
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford drivers Matthew Wilson and Henning Solberg are bound for South America as round five of the FIA World Rally Championship moves away from Europe for the first time this season and picks up in the sierras of central Argentina.
Famed for its fervent crowds, stunning lunar landscapes and spectacular water splashes, Rally Argentina promises to be just as exciting this year and even more spectator-friendly with a more compact format close to the host town of Villa Carlos Paz.
The Argentine audience will be treated to three Super Special stages in the Cordoba Stadium over a redesigned 2.4km course. And with familiar tests like El Condor and Mina Clavero still featuring in the program alongside one new stage, Rally Argentina is set to provide a mix of exciting challenges over the 331.8km of stages for the 59 crews entered.
Rally Argentina holds special memories for Wilson who took a record-breaking Super Special stage win there in 2006 at just 18 years of age. It was the young Briton's first ever WRC stage victory and he remains to this day the youngest winner of a WRC stage. After the disappointment of losing out on fifth place at the Rally de Portugal earlier this month when he crashed out on the penultimate stage he and co-driver Scott Martin are looking to return to the form that had seem them score points in every rally so far this season up to that point.
Damper problems put an end to Solberg's Rally Argentina last year but the Norwegian, with co-driver Cato Menkerud, finished fifth there in 2007 and with his position in the drivers' standings and family honour at stake he will be looking for another solid point scoring finish. He took his first ever WRC stage win, a joint victory with younger brother Petter on SS16 in 2006, and the siblings are currently level on points in the championship. Solberg has worked hard with his engineers on the set-up of the car to ensure that he is fully prepared for a strong performance in Argentina.
With the 2008 edition of the event blighted by heavy rain the rally has been moved on a month in the calendar and organisers are hoping for better conditions. All cars will be using the reliable Pirelli Scorpion gravel tyre which will be challenged by the changing road conditions over the rally, from hard gravel and rocks to soft, sandy tracks.
After the opening Super Special stage in the Cordoba Stadium on Thursday night the rally gets underway in the hills to the north of the service park with 142.16kms of stages including the 22.95km Capilla Del Monte and La Cumbre which will see the drivers' first high-altitude test of the rally as they climb to over 1500m testing both the drivers and the engines. With high-altitude stages a feature of the rally -- the famed El Condor stage on Saturday will see them reach 2122m -- fog could cause visibility problems making accurate pacenotes even more crucial. After four short stages to the west of Villa Carlos Paz on Sunday morning the drivers return to the Cordoba Stadium for a final Super Special stage in front of the vociferous Argentine crowd.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team news since Rally de Portugal
With the extra challenge of high-altitude stages at Rally Argentina, Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin have been putting in specific work on their fitness with trainer Barry Johnson to prepare for the rally and ensure their fitness is at its peak for this demanding event.
Henning Solberg spent Easter in Norway with his family and has used the short break between the Rally de Portugal to step up his fitness work with physical training every day. He has also been working on a new set-up for Rally Argentina with his engineer. Solberg has made changes to the set-up of his front suspension returning to a similar base configuration to that used on the car last year.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
"This is the first rally that Scott and I have done together as a team before so it'll be really good from that point of view. I've competed on this rally four times and there are a good percentage of stages that are the same as in the past so I have good experience to bring to it. I would be great if we could start the same way that we did in Portugal but I'm hoping that we don't end up the same way. Saturday will be a crucial day in terms of the overall result, it's a long day with some difficult stages and the altitude will also play a part. El Condor, which is the highest stage, is on Saturday and that is always a real challenge."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
"I'm really looking forward to Argentina and it's an event I always enjoy. We have always set good times here in the past and usually I find it easier to get a good feeling with the car. We have concentrated hard on reviewing our settings from last year as I want to be able to have a good feeling with the car right from the start of the rally and be able to push hard from the very first stage. This will be an important rally and I need a top-five result to help maintain my position in the drivers' championship."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"There was a really strong showing by both drivers in Portugal and we are hoping to continue and build on that performance so the team is really looking forward to it. It is the first time that Matthew and Scott are going to a rally that they have competed in together so it will be interesting to see how they get on having both had experience of the rally last year. Both Matthew and Henning have good memories to draw on from their past experiences of Rally Argentina so that will be a confidence boost for them going into the first fly-away rally of the year."