The first full day of action at Rallye de France saw Stobart M-Sport Ford's Matthew Wilson secure ninth position after a three-way battle with fellow Ford Focus RS Word Rally driver Ken Block and seven-time Argentinean Rally Champion, Federico ...
The first full day of action at Rallye de France saw Stobart M-Sport Ford's Matthew Wilson secure ninth position after a three-way battle with fellow Ford Focus RS Word Rally driver Ken Block and seven-time Argentinean Rally Champion, Federico Villagra.
Sixty-seven crews tackled a repeat loop of four stages totalling 145.86 km at the newly-located FIA World Rally Championship round in the Haut-Rhin region today. It marked the first time that Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin had driven their Ford Focus RS WRC on asphalt since ADAC Rallye Deutschland in August and the patchy conditions on the opening eight tests made it difficult for the pair to maintain grip despite using Pirelli's soft compound PZero tyres.
Wilson was in tenth position as he pulled into a remote service at Mulhouse at the end of SS4 - 14.1 seconds behind Villagra in ninth position but 3.6 seconds ahead of Stobart M-Sport Ford's other nominated points scorer in France, Ken Block.
The Stobart crew were keen to extend their lead over their American team-mate and steadily improved their times in the repeat afternoon pass. Wilson finished SS7, the 22.33 km Vallee de Munster 1 test, 11.2 seconds quicker than he did that morning and the young Briton took advantage of Frigyes Turan who stopped on SS8 to move into ninth position of the overall WRC leaderboard.
Wilson and Martin pulled into the final service at Strasbourg Zeenith 23.5 seconds adrift of Munchi's Ford driver Federico Villagra but had successfully extended their lead over Block to more than one minute.
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
"It has been a very tough day. That last stage [SS8] was extremely hard and the final 10 km was unbelievable -- there was so much mud dragged across the road that it probably would have been more effective driving with gravel tyres! Today has also witnessed some very changeable conditions and I think this is one of the hardest things about rallying -- it makes it very hard to maintain any form of rhythm as the grip was constantly changing. Tarmac has never been my preferred surface but the last stage today was so narrow and the corners were very slippery that the tiniest mistake could have been fatal - I'm glad I've made it to the end of today and finished inside the top ten. Tomorrow is a different day entirely and features the longest stage of the rally so if we can pick up the pace then I think we could move into eighth or even seventh position. I've heard there is some rain due overnight though so we'll just have to wait and see what the conditions will be like on the roads in the morning."