Stobart Dig Deep in Jordan's Dunes The Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team battled through the blazing heat of day two at Jordan Rally to stay on course for a double points finish in round three of the FIA World Rally Championship. An early start...
Stobart Dig Deep in Jordan's Dunes
The Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team battled through the blazing heat of day two at Jordan Rally to stay on course for a double points finish in round three of the FIA World Rally Championship.
An early start to the day's schedule saw the crews greeted by clear, sunny conditions as they embarked upon 138.28km of competitive stage distance in the demanding desert terrain around the Dead Sea.
The morning loop of three stages opened with the 10.49km SS8 Suwayama located an incredible 420m below sea level -- the lowest point on earth.
The Stobart crews of Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin and Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor initially struggled to find their rhythm on the blind crests and corners of the open desert roads, but both moved up one place in the overall leaderboard when BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team's Mikko Hirvonen crashed out of the rally around 4.5km into the first stage of the day.
However Henning Solberg suffered on the longest stage of the rally, the 41.45km SS10 Jordan River stage, when 2km in his Ford Focus RS WRC suffered a puncture to the rear right tyre after he hit rocks at high speed. He and co-driver Ilka Minor were forced to stop and change the wheel, then also suffered from brake issues that caused them to lose over six minutes and dropped them to 13th overall.
Team-mate Matthew Wilson managed to keep his cool in the ferocious heat of the Jordan Valley to move into sixth overall after his team-mate's mishap.
The afternoon loop was a repeat of the morning's three stages, and with temperatures reaching 33 degrees centigrade it proved to be a punishing physical challenge for the crews.
Henning Solberg fought back from his earlier dramas to go sixth-fastest through SS11 Suwayama, then despite struggling with his brakes once again repeated the feat on both the following stages to climb back into an impressive ninth overall by the end of the day.
Matthew Wilson ran closely to the pace of Solberg throughout the afternoon and went seventh-fastest on both the 17.20km SS12 Kafrain and 41.45km SS13 Jordan River tests. The interior of the Cumbrian youngster's car was clogged with dust by the time he returned to service, but he was happy to be able to dust himself down and look forward to securing a strong finish on the Final day of the event tomorrow (Saturday).
The finale of Jordan Rally will see crews take on eight stages split over two identical loops totalling 105.50km of competitive distance, and finishing at the famous Jordan River Baptism Site.
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BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team's Jari-Matti Latvala led the charge for the Blue Oval and is placed third at the close of the second day in Jordan. He ran in the top three overall throughout and was delighted to secure a strong road position from which he can challenge for victory on the final day. A mistake on the opening stage of the day cost team-mate Mikko Hirvonen dearly however, with the title challenger going off the road, breaking his front left suspension and being forced to retire. He is expected to return under SuperRally rules on Saturday.
The Munchi's Ford World Rally Team Federico Villagra and Jorge Perez Companc claimed seventh overall after a steady run. The Argentine champions will aim to guide their Ford Focus RS WRC to a trouble-free finish on the final day tomorrow.
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
"It was good to get through those big long stages with no big problems. We had an issue with dust getting into the car in the afternoon, it was unbelievable how bad it was in some places and it was hard to catch your breath. It must've been getting in a small hole in the car somewhere. We are in a decent position going into the final day though. The stages tomorrow are shorter but I think they could actually be trickier than today. The morning especially will be tough but the afternoon should be a bit easier."
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
"It was a lot tougher out there today than yesterday. We had a lot of problems with the puncture in the morning and the brakes in the afternoon. This made a hard rally even more difficult. Everything else was ok with the car though, and we managed to get some good times on the last few stages which I am happy about. We will make a few changes and see if we can improve again tomorrow."
Stobart M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"It's been a really hard day but the Stobart team has managed to come out of it in a good position. Henning lost a lot of time in the morning after his puncture but fought back very well to move into the top ten of the leaderboard. Matthew had a relatively trouble-free day and drove sensibly to ensure he is under no immediate pressure from the cars behind him."