The Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team won an exciting battle for sixth position with former Formula One Champion, Kimi Raikkonen, during the first full day of action at ADAC Rallye Deutschland. Returning to the FIA World Rally Championship for...
The Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team won an exciting battle for sixth position with former Formula One Champion, Kimi Raikkonen, during the first full day of action at ADAC Rallye Deutschland.
Returning to the FIA World Rally Championship for the first time since 2008, Francois Duval and experienced co-driver, Denis Giraudet, got off to a flying start, producing the sixth-fastest stage time in SS1. The duo were just 0.7 seconds adrift of this year's Vodafone Rally de Portugal champion, Sebastien Ogier. However, at the end of SS2, Duval's luck swiftly changed and a broken front right driveshaft meant that the Belgian driver lost over 60 seconds on the morning's final stage and dropped him back into eighth position.
Duval's misfortune meant that Matthew Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin, led the way for the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team at the end of the morning's opening loop. The Cumbrian duo reported braking issues with their Ford Focus RS WRC but pulled into the first service in a comfortable sixth position overall, 20.5 seconds ahead of Raikkonen.
Both Stobart crews opted for soft compound Pirelli PZero tyres for the morning's stages but as the temperatures soared to 26 degrees Celsius, the crews swapped to hard compound tyres for the afternoon's repeat loop. Wilson has less experience driving hard compound tyres on asphalt and as a result Duval gradually closed the gap on his younger team-mate throughout the afternoon.
By SS6, the young Briton had adapted well to driving the Ford Focus RS WRC with hard tyres and finished the repeated Moselland stage 15.7 seconds faster than he did that morning. This quick stage time secured Wilson's lead over Raikkonen in the WRC leader board but was not fast enough to prevent his Belgian team-mate from snatching sixth position and pushing 23-year-old Wilson into seventh overall.
Duval reported problems with his engine overheating during Friday afternoon but the Belgian driver successfully moved up two places on the overall leader board. At the end of the first full day of action at Rallye Deutschland, both Stobart crews successfully won the battle against Raikkonen and just 4.7 seconds separate the team-mates as they enter Day Two.
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
"This afternoon's stages were a lot drier than they were this morning with much more dust on the roads. The brakes were better but we took it more cautiously on SS5 - I'm not as comfortable driving on the hard tyres but it was definitely the right decision, the set-up this morning was far too soft. We had a good run on the final stage and I started to enjoy myself some more. Tomorrow's going to be tough -- it's an early start and the stages are some of the longest we've experienced all year. This could make it easy to make a silly mistake so I need to make sure I get a lot of sleep tonight so that I can maintain a high level of concentration throughout tomorrow."
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Francois Duval said:
"It's not been a great opening day but I guess that it could have been much worse. We had problems with the engine this afternoon -- I'm not entirely sure what is wrong but we still managed some good times. I'm really wanting to get into the top five so will keep pushing tomorrow - I think that we could make up some time on the longer stages, especially the ones that I know from previous years. There were a lot more cuts on the stages this afternoon and we felt a big vibration on SS4 -- this was possibly to do with the engine overheating but I'm not sure exactly what it was, it definitely didn't help my confidence. I'd like to do better tomorrow."