Britain's Matthew Wilson and Finland's Juha Kankkunen lead the way for the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team as they lie in sixth and seventh position at the end of Neste Oil Rally Finland's opening eleven stages. Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor...
Britain's Matthew Wilson and Finland's Juha Kankkunen lead the way for the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team as they lie in sixth and seventh position at the end of Neste Oil Rally Finland's opening eleven stages.
Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor were on flying form as they entered Friday's afternoon loop, producing the fastest split times in their Ford Focus RS WRC for the majority of SS6. Solberg lost time manipulating a corner at the end of the stage but the Norwegian driver still finished the stage third-fastest, just 1.2 seconds slower than his brother Petter.
At the end of SS6, Solberg moved into the top five and was a comfortable 1.9 seconds ahead of Sebastien Loeb. Taking advantage of Khalid Al Qassimi's crash in SS6, Stobart team-mates Juha Kankkunen and co-driver, Juha Repo, moved up into ninth position overall. Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin remained in seventh position.
Solberg maintained his fast pace throughout SS7 and finished the 6.45km stage third-fastest. However, a small downpour of rain made SS8 slippery and Solberg crashed after the third corner. The Ford Focus RS WRC's roll cage was badly damaged and the Norwegian is unable to continue under SupeRally regulations for the final day of action.
As a result of Solberg's misfortune, Wilson moved up into sixth position and Kankkunen moved up a place into seventh overall. Mattias Therman and co-driver Janne Perala steadily improved their stage times throughout the day, moving up from 22nd position at the end of the morning loop and finishing the first full day of Neste Oil Rally Finland in 15th position overall.
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
"The car felt totally different this afternoon compared to this morning -- the rear end was sliding a lot which made it more difficult to control. The narrow sections in the trees are very difficult -- a mistake could be fatal so I was taking it careful in those areas. Pace notes are so important in this rally -- I've just really got to trust every single detail. We got caught in some heavy rain towards the end of SS8 which made the stage slippery and we hit a front right wing on SS10 towards the end of the stage so I took everything very cautiously after that. But we've had no major problems today and I'm happy with my overall position."
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
"I was really starting to enjoy myself until we had to retire -- the car set up was working very well. I was getting very close to catching up on my brother [Petter Solberg] in the last two stages before I crashed so it is very frustrating. But I did try my best and I am pleased that I had got into the top five before I had to retire -- just like Mikko [Hirvonen], I was very unlucky. The smallest mistake can prove fatal. I will try not to reflect on the accident too much and just aim for a good result in Germany next month when I will return to drive the [Ford Fiesta] S2000."
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Juha Kankkunen said:
"I've has no major problems today, I am just enjoying the rally. The handling and the suspension of the WRC is really nice but sometimes I feel like I'm waiting for the power to come with these modern cars. In fact, braking is the most difficult thing to learn - the WRC brakes are just so efficient. I took everything quite carefully on SS6 but it was my home stage and I enjoyed every minute. The whole stage was packed with spectators so it was a very nice stage to drive. We had some rain on SS7 which made everything very slippery but I managed to deal with everything fine. I'm pleased with how everything is going and, of course, very happy that I am ahead of Kimi [Raikkonen]."
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Mattias Therman said:
"The afternoon's opening stage was wild - I really had to work hard but we are really enjoying ourselves. I was told I've done the Lankamaa stage (SS6) before but I didn't remember doing it so wasn't familiar with the road but this didn't cause me any problems. During SS7 our pace notes were not as accurate as I would have liked but it was a very fun stage to drive. It was good to get a clear run in the closing Super Special this evening. I feel like I am really starting to get used to the car and this afternoon definitely went more smoothly than I had imagined it would. The set up is working well for us. I will continue to push tomorrow but I am happy with how everything is going so far."