Henning Solberg got off to a flying start at Rally Japan, claiming a stage win at the end of the morning loop for the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team. Solberg and co-driver, Ilka Minor, reported that the deep ruts on the roads made handling...
Henning Solberg got off to a flying start at Rally Japan, claiming a stage win at the end of the morning loop for the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team.
Solberg and co-driver, Ilka Minor, reported that the deep ruts on the roads made handling their Ford Focus RS WRC difficult but the duo finished SS4 sixth-fastest, 1.4 seconds ahead of Sebastien Loeb. The team-mates then went on to win the following 3.55km stage, finishing an impressive one second quicker than both Petter Solberg and BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Mikko Hirvonen. The last time the Norwegian driver claimed a stage win was at Vodafone Rally de Portugal in April 2009.
Solberg's stage win now means that the Norwegian is only 7.3 seconds off snatching sixth position from six-time World Rally Champion, Sebastien Loeb.
Matthew Wilson and co-driver, Scott Martin, were fifth-fastest during Thursday's Shakedown at the Sapporo Dome but a small problem with the launch on their Ford Focus RS WRC cost the young Cumbrian duo valuable time during Thursday evening's two opening Super Special Stages.
During SS4, Wilson and co-driver, Scott Martin, stalled and spun their Ford Focus RS WRC at a right hand junction. This lost Wilson approximately ten seconds but he managed to recover from the incident, finishing the 27.76 km stage eighth-fastest. The pair pulled into the day's first service eighth overall.
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
"These were difficult opening stages -- there were a few sections near the start of SS3 which were really fast with deep gravel. The second pass this afternoon will be very difficult with all the ruts. It's been hard adjusting to driving the [Ford] Focus on gravel again -- I haven't driven the car on this surface since Finland and with the Shakedown being on tarmac in the Sapporo Dome, it wasn't the best preparation for today's first test. During SS4, we had a half spin and a stall at a right junction which lost us about eight seconds but everything is going OK so far. I'm not happy with the set-up but judging the correct braking has been the most difficult problem for me this morning -- I need to try and find a good balance and not overshoot or brake too early. This afternoon is going to be tough."
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
"I'm very happy to have won that last stage -- in my head I want to drive as fast as I possibly can all the time and I want to try and do this again this afternoon. I don't like the stages much here in Japan, the roads can be very long and with narrow corners so it is difficult to find the right rhythm. I've not found a huge problem to adjust back to the [Ford] Focus after driving the Ford Fiesta S2000 in Germany -- this car is nice to drive on the gravel surfaces. The deep ruts have made everything very hard but I know that it will be much worse this afternoon. I will continue to push and hopefully I will collect another stage win for the team!"