The OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team has completed the most successful season in the history of rallying with a sensational result at the "Wales Rally GB". Following Australia and New Zealand the OMV duo Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor reached the...
The OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team has completed the most successful season in the history of rallying with a sensational result at the "Wales Rally GB". Following Australia and New Zealand the OMV duo Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor reached the podium for the third time in a row and the fourth time this year with second overall place. Thus Stohl also secured fourth place in the driver WRC 2006. Norwegian teammates Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud finished the last run to the FIA World Rally Championship in eleventh place and take eighth place in the final WRC standings.
Great joy follows high tension
Manfred Stohl probably completed the best rally of his career at the season's finale in Wales even though the 34-year-old OMV driver already has 110 WRC runs to his account. But in Wales, a rally tailor-made for Stohl, prowess and luck combined to turn this into the highlight of an incredible rally year. Second place behind Finnish works driver Marcus Grönholm means that he equalled his best result in the World Rally Championship so far, the second place in Cyprus in 2005. Stohl: "This success is of much higher value, though, since I'm only 1:35 minutes behind the winner. In Cuyprus it were over four minutes." Still, prior to the triumph tension was extremely high. "You listen for each little noise that shouldn't be there on the last day. The gas foot trembles permanently. But you still have to be highly focussed in order to keep up the speed. After everything is over you need some time to realise what just has happened. Now the joy is overwhelming, of course. A privateer right among the works teams on the podium - and it is not a dream but reality. Just like these three podium places in a row." In the driver WRC final standings he moved past Citroen-newcomer Dani Sordo (Spa) and completed the season in fourth place with 54 points.
The rally in fast motion
The Wales Rally GB began for Manfred Stohl with two third-best special stage times. At the end of day one he was in third place, just 22,3 seconds behind Petter Solberg (Nor/Subaru). During the second leg things heated up. In the morning the OMV driver overtook the Norwegian four-times-winner in Wales. But the latter countered the attack and moved past him one special stage later. At halftime the opponents for second place were only 0,1 seconds apart. On Saturday afternoon Stohl was able to expand his lead. Solberg hit a gate and damaged the steering of the Subaru. In the evening of day two Stohl lay 50 seconds in front of Solberg. The final day turned the tension up once again. The Norwegian came back with a best time on the first SS of the day. But already on SS 15 he dropped back again due to a spin. Once more the Austrian expanded his lead up to 53 seconds. Stohl tried to control speed and opponent and to minimise the risk. "That is not easy given these slippery conditions. The basic speed still has to be there or you're in danger of going to slow and lose the race", explains the OMV driver. But the last two special stages posed no problems and Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor were able to secure their place until the finish line.
Henning gave his best
The Wales Rally GB didn't go according to plan for Henning Solberg. The Norwegian of the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team already lost his chance for a top place on the first day. He slipped off the road, his car lay on its side and he lost almost four minutes. Following this Solberg put his foot down and managed to move up to eleventh overall place. In the WRC driver ranking he finishes the year in eighth place with 25 points. The best result in the career of the older brother of former World Champion Petter Solberg. Henning: "It was important to us to win back our self- confidence after the slip. And there were several times I was very content with afterwards. But unfortunately we were too far behind. Therefore it was impossible to score points. But I still can be very satisfied with this season. The highlights were, of course, the podium place in Turkey and fourth place in Finland."
Not only a statistical success
It was the most successful season since their debut 34 years ago for Bozian Racing, the French tuning wizards of the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team. 88 points in the FIA manufacture WRC mean an average of 7,4 points per rally. Thus the M2-ranking was won in a superior fashion. Stohl scored in twelve out of 16 runs - only surpassed by Grönholm with 14. A special highlight for Bozian Racing was the third place by Manfred Stohl in Australia since this rally also marked the 100th assignment of the French tuners in the World Rally Championship. "It was an incredible year. We are very grateful to Manfred and Henning. They definitely have raised the worth of a private team. One has every reason to be content with five podium places. Our drivers really used the potential of the Peugeot 307 WRC to full capacity. Now we hope to even improve the car for next year and, of course, that Manfred will be performing for us once more ", explains Jackie Bozian, Team Manager of the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team.
-credit: omv peugeot norway