Stobart crews fire-up for Finnish action After a well earned summer break the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team head to Finland next week for the Neste Oil Rally Finland, round nine of the FIA World Rally Championship. The team is currently fourth...
Stobart crews fire-up for Finnish action
After a well earned summer break the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team head to Finland next week for the Neste Oil Rally Finland, round nine of the FIA World Rally Championship. The team is currently fourth in the Manufacturers' Championship with Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud sixth in the Drivers' Championship, Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila eighth and Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr in 14th position.
With some mid-season-break testing and various drive days keeping crews on top of their game, the guys will be looking to regain third place in the manufacturers' race as they currently sit just two points behind Japanese manufacturer Subaru.
The fastest rally in the WRC, Finland is loaded with tradition. Finnish drivers have scored the highest number of wins at this event, which is one of the most popular in the championship for both spectators and competitors alike. This year there are 28 different nationalities among the 102 entrants.
Finland is the only event to host its headquarters in the same town every year since the championship first received the designation of WRC in 1973. Last year over 90,000 individual spectators made their way to the Service Park, further proving how rally-mad this nation is.
Roads here are open and smooth allowing for very wide lines and super-fast top speeds but also with sections of narrow, soft gravel roads that have a tendency to rut quite heavily in places. The event is also renowned for its massive crests such as the famous Ouninpohja jump, the current distance record for which is held by Markko Martin when he travelled 57 metres in the air at a speed of 171kph in 2003.
This year the Ouninpohja stage will be run in its entirety, only with added chicanes, as organisers look to slow down the extremely fast average speed of the event and ensure high levels of safety.
Last year Solberg entered the event after an eleven-week break from the WRC, and despite a variety of brake problems he showed superb form to finish the rally in fourth position overall. This will be the Norwegian's eighth Finnish rally as he looks to begin the second half of the 2007 season at the top of the timesheets.
It's home turf for 22-year-old Latvala on his fifth attempt at the event. In the past the young Finn has had mixed fortunes but this year, in his first fulltime WRC drive, he will have the support of thousands of fellow countrymen as he looks to perform in front of his home nation. Latvala, along with team-mates Solberg and Wilson, took part in a tarmac test in Spain last month keeping up the feel for his Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC06.
Wilson will be aiming for points this year round after finishing last year's event just outside the numbers in tenth position. The 20-year-old Englishman has been training hard over the summer gap, spending hours on the bike while keeping sharp behind the wheel with some testing in Spain and three days at the famous Goodwood Festival of Speed, where he entertained the crowd by blasting through the purpose-built forest rally stage over all three days.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:
"I am very anxious to start the rally, especially with such a long break since Greece. Finland is my favourite rally and a special one for me being my home event, the number of fans that come out to the stages and into the Service Park is incredible and I really want to do well for them. I want to do as well as I can and I guess my goal would be a top five finish, but the podium is always in the back of the mind. I will certainly try my best for the fans but I know I have to finish the rally. I have been working a lot back in my home town over the summer break and keeping a lot fitter through running and also orienteering. Unfortunately I have not had too much time in a car on gravel over the past two months but the test in Spain was probably the best I have ever had on tarmac. I just can't wait for the start of this rally."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
"I have to say I am pleased with the year so far. I am now sixth overall in the Drivers' Championship, just two points behind Petter (Solberg) and four points behind Dani Sordo. I am very happy with that. I was very pleased with the last three rallies too. It is coming. I am struggling a little bit with how the car is for me but I'm taking it step-by-step and am pretty happy now we are getting closer to the top, which is the aim we have. If I can keep my position in the Drivers' Championship and be as close as possible to these other guys, then that would be great. We will try and reach the podium now in the second half of the season. Finland was a strong rally for us last year and hopefully this year will be even better."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
"I'm really looking forward to Finland and getting back in the car after such a big break. I've had a bit of time in the car with the test in Spain and a few promotional drives like Goodwood which, have been really beneficial while there have been no rallies. I have spent some time recently with Robert (Reid) working on my notes and I think with the amount of new rally route this year we will write some fresh ones -- so this time with Robert will certainly help us with the notes here; which is a very important aspect of an event like this. Finland is going to be quite warm but I have been keeping my fitness level up over the break and am feeling 100 percent ready to get back into the action."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"I think the Stobart team has the potential to do well in Finland. This is Jari's home event and I know he is looking to have a good result here. Henning was fourth here last year and his experience of the event will be very beneficial. He has had some time in the car over the break, with the test in Spain and a PR event with his sponsors and is starting to get a much better feel for it. Matthew has also had time in the car since Greece and has been working a lot on his notes, last year was a good result and finishing the event means he comes in this year with the experience of a full Finnish rally under his belt. Having two Scandinavians in the team is certainly a benefit but it is a difficult rally so finishing the event and keeping out of trouble will be the key to good results."