Stobart crews arrive for Argentine attack Round six of the FIA World Rally Championship will be a fast-paced battle in Argentina next week as the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team look to regain third position in the manufacturers' ...
Stobart crews arrive for Argentine attack
Round six of the FIA World Rally Championship will be a fast-paced battle in Argentina next week as the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team look to regain third position in the manufacturers' race.
Currently the team sits just six points adrift of third spot and will be looking to attack the tough south American roads. Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud lead the charge, sixth in the drivers' standings, while Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila nestle close by in ninth. After scoring their first 2007 point in Mexico two rounds ago Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr are in a solid 14th position.
Last year Argentina proved to be a tough event but for Wilson it was where he scored his maiden WRC driver's point at the record-breaking age of 19. The surface here is quite unique. The sandy base and gravel coating combined with the huge rocks that tenderly poise themselves by the road-side can make sections extremely rough after initial stage passes.
Weather and wildlife also play a big role in the outcome of this long-haul rally with everything from blue skies to fog and even snow on the higher sections, which climb to a peak competitive height of 2195 metres on stages 19 and 21. Many competitors have been slowed down by the local cattle which often find their way onto live special stages.
For the first time since 1991 the official start and the running of stage 1 will be held in the country's capital of Buenos Aires, over 700 kilometers away from Rally HQ in Cordoba. This is expected to bring tens of thousands of spectators into the River Plate Stadium which plays host to the opening super special on Thursday night.
Since the foundation of Rally Argentina in 1980 there have been 16 different winners out of a possible 26 making it anyone's game come next weekend.
Solberg has only competed on this rally once in his career finishing a very respectable seventh with co-driver Menkerud in 2006. Leading the charge for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team, the Norwegian pair will be looking to add to their already impressive tally of championship points thus far.
After celebrating a birthday in April the now 22-year-old Latvala will be looking to continue the form that saw him constantly setting top five stage times in Portugal. The Finn has little experience of this rally but is confident in the car and his performance shown on gravel so far this year.
Wilson heads to Argentina looking to replicate last year's efforts and relish in the points once again. After gravel testing his Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC06 the weekend before Rally Portugal, Britain's only full-time driver in the championship will be looking to gain valuable experience of this event for his future years ahead as an aspiring young rally talent.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
"It will be good to get started in Argentina after the four week break we have had, I'm really eager to get back into the car on gravel again. In Portugal we didn't have a good feeling with the car and I know that we still need to work hard to make things exactly right; the car is very good but I just need to make some changes to make it suit my style of driving. I'm not going to sit back though, I want to try and push and be on the pace right from the start of the rally. I haven't a lot of experience of this rally but we did get our first WRC stage win here last year so hopefully we can race for some good times this year also."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:
"This rally is one I have very little experience of. We competed here in 2005 in a Group N car but retired on the first leg. It was quite tough in a Group N car with all the big ruts but this year in a World Rally Car I think I can relax a little bit because they are a lot stronger and the roads will not be so damaged running up the order. Like Mexico, I am going to take a sensible approach to this rally and not push too hard. I will try and progress quicker each day and try for a top eight finish. There are more rallies coming where I have lots more experience so I know I can push more in these events. I did just celebrate a birthday, I'm now 22 and hopefully I am becoming wiser as I get older!"
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
"I'm really looking forward to Argentina, especially after scoring my first driver's point and stage win there last year. We know how tough this rally can be so we will definitely be taking a steady approach and look to complete the event. I just recently did the recce for the Pirelli International Rally with Robert Reid (former WRC champion co-driver) and can't wait to get out to Argentina and put into practice what I was able to learn with him. We will probably start with last year's pace notes and see how much we need to modify them. My aim is for top-ten but if we stay out of trouble and get to the end, the reliability of this car could certainly mean some more points for us."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"The Focus WRC should be strong and competitive on this event and it should hopefully help all three crews to put in some competitive times and finish the event. Jari has a little experience of this rally and should go well and both Henning and Matthew scored their first stage wins here last year. The signs all point to potentially another good result for the team and it would be very encouraging to re-claim third position in the Manufacturers' Championship; but these stages can bite back and they all need to finish the event to get points."