STOBART'S WILSON READY TO BATTLE ON THE COSTA BRITAIN'S leading FIA World Rally Championship driver Matthew Wilson will be aiming to produce his best tarmac result of the season at next week's Rally de Espana. After what has been an ...
STOBART'S WILSON READY TO BATTLE ON THE COSTA
BRITAIN'S leading FIA World Rally Championship driver Matthew Wilson will be aiming to produce his best tarmac result of the season at next week's Rally de Espana.
After what has been an impressive show of speed on asphalt this year, the Stobart M-Sport Ford driver will be looking to finish the final tarmac round on a high after working hard this year to improve the handling of his Ford Focus RS World Rally Car on the sealed surface.
"Tarmac has never been my preferred driving surface but the previous WRC round in France was even more difficult as we had new stages to contend with. Apart from the first day, the stages in Spain are almost the same as 2009 which takes some pressure off and gives us more time to focus on making our pacenotes more accurate during the recce," said Wilson.
As well as being the fastest WRC round of the season, Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin also have a unique mixed gravel and asphalt affair to contend with at this year's penultimate WRC round.
"I've only competed at one other WRC event like this before and that was at Rally Cyprus last year when we finished fifth. I'd be delighted with that kind of result again.
"I think Saturday morning could be pivotal -- to change from a gravel set-up on Friday and then straight onto a tarmac set-up the following morning will be very tricky.
"It didn't cause us too many problems last time and we finished with a good result but it will be different next week as Spain's stages are predominantly tarmac whereas in Cyprus it was mostly gravel," said Wilson.
This is only the second time since 1996 that the FIA have included a mixed gravel and asphalt WRC round. And Stobart M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson acknowledged the difficulty of an event which mixes road surfaces.
"Rally de Espa0x00f1a is always a challenging because the stages are super-fast, but an added difficulty this year is that nearly 75% of Friday's stages will be on gravel," explained team supremo Wilson.
He added; "Matthew will have to adapt as quickly as possible from a gravel set-up on Friday to an asphalt set-up on Saturday to ensure he maintains a good rhythm.
"The team will be running in full gravel trim on the Friday and then convert to a tarmac set-up on the Friday night service. Extra equipment is required when an event has a mix of road surfaces and Friday's end of leg service has been extended from 45 to 75 minutes to account for this."
Joining the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally team in the points-scoring line-up for the second time next week will be Monster World Rally Team's Ken Block and co-driver Alex Gelsomino.
Wilson's regular WRC team-mates Henning Solberg and co-driver Stephane Prevot will also be entered under the Stobart M-Sport Ford banner in Spain but will be behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta Super 2000. The Norwegian driver will not be nominated to score any manufacturer points but will return to drive the Ford Focus RS WRC at Rally Wales GB in November.
Fast sweeping roads in the Tarrogana region of north-east Spain will play host to this year's Rally de Espana for the fifth consecutive year. The rally's service park will be housed in the coastal town's PortAventura theme park resort and the rally route remains similar to last year but with added gravel challenges.
The three-day rally will feature 16 special stages covering 355.30 km and will begin with a popular ceremonial start in central Salou on Thursday 21 October. Friday's stages will provide an interesting challenge for the drivers as they consist of a mix of gravel and asphalt road surfaces, but Saturday and Sunday's route will feature the traditional asphalt tests only.
The first full day of action will commence on Friday 22 October with two passes over a three stage loop in the wine-producing region of Montsant. The 35.94 km Terra Alta mixed gravel and asphalt stage will start the morning and afternoon loop and will be followed by a 14.97 km all-gravel test. A 17.28 km mixed gravel and asphalt test will round off the loop.
Saturday consists of asphalt stages only and takes the crews north-west of Salou to complete another repeat loop of three stages totalling 126.62 km.
At just 92.30 km, Sunday is the shortest day but includes a repeat pass of El Priorat, the longest test of the rally at 42.04 km which winds its way rounds the cherry orchards high in the hills above Gratallops. The rally concludes with a sprint over the 4.11 km La Serra d'Almos stage [SS16].