Triple three for Jari-Matti The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team crew of Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila has scored a hat-trick of podium placed stage finishes to end the first day of Rally de Portugal in a strong sixth position overall. After...
Triple three for Jari-Matti
The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team crew of Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila has scored a hat-trick of podium placed stage finishes to end the first day of Rally de Portugal in a strong sixth position overall. After early morning woes the young Finn powered on to set up a solid start for the manufacturer points chase.
Team-mates Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr and Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud have both steered their Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC06 cars to commendable positions in 13th and tenth respectively. It was a tough day with road conditions catching out several competitors.
Leg one officially kicked-off under the watchful eye of 20,000 boisterous Portuguese fans who were treated to some class acts. The Algarve Stadium proved a huge success with the highlight being a massive table-top jump which ignited the crowd as cars flew up to 30 feet through the air.
Rally de Portugal's true tests began this morning in the northern Tavira mountain region, with the 19.92 kilometre Tavira 1 stage. It was a perfect day for rallying, clear skies and mild temperatures greeted crews as they set out to tackle the 122.79 kilometres of special stage action.
With road conditions quite rough in sections, punctures and tyre wear became an issue, testing crews on correct rubber selection. Over the second pass this afternoon, loose rocks made their way onto sections of the road to add more difficulty to the event.
Solberg and co-driver Menkerud set off cautiously at their first attempt on Portuguese soil. The Norwegian duo experimented with the car and tyre choices on this their second gravel rally in the 06 Focus RS.
After a cautious day one Solberg will be looking to attack hard and push for competitive times which were seen in Mexico no less than two weeks ago.
Finns, Latvala and Anttila, showed matured pace to finish just 31.3 seconds adrift of fifth position. Latvala battled early hydraulic issues and lost ten seconds last night after a meeting with some barriers on the first corner of the Algarve Super Special. With their confidence growing the crew will head into tomorrows stages ready to attack top positions.
For the British crew of Wilson and Orr it was a case of experience mileage as the pair made it safely through the fast and narrow stages. A puncture on stage 2 dented their times slightly then intercom troubles on stage 4 lost them further seconds with Wilson unable to hear his pace notes for three kilometres of the test.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
"I was taking it quite cautiously today. We didn't have any problems, just took it a bit too slowly to begin with. The stages are rough in places but generally they're quite good and I enjoyed them. I know that I just need to be very careful as the stages are difficult and tricky and it will be easy to push too hard and make a mistake. We are just taking things step-by-step this weekend, you have to have the right confidence with the car, especially here where the roads are fast, and I just don't have that yet; hopefully tomorrow I will have a better feeling."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:
"The first stage this morning wasn't too good but after that it has been great. I didn't know what gear I was in and stalled on a hairpin as I thought I was in first gear, but it was actually second gear and this lost us about 30 seconds. We were able to fix the problem after stage 2 and it was great after that. The conditions are very rough so I'm going to be sensible and try not to break the car. The car is going perfectly so we will try and keep the same speed tomorrow and see what we can do. The stages tomorrow are good but more difficult, there is a lot of downhill braking and narrow corners with bad camber; it will be hard to not make any mistakes"
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
"We had a puncture early in the first stage which lost us a bit of time. There were a few massive rocks that were being pulled out over the stage which made it quite unstable in the high-speed bits. We lost the intercom on stage 4 and had to drive without notes for about three kilometres, Michael had to use the intercom from the headsets to call the pace notes to me. Its been really difficult, especially over the second pass, but I'm glad to finish today and we're looking forward to getting back out there tomorrow and see if we can improve on our times."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"It has been a fantastic performance from Jari after a bad start to the day, he has had two third fastest stage times in the last two stages and is now within striking distance of Dani Sordo; he really has been driving well today. I think Henning has been struggling with his car set-up and as a result he just doesn't have the confidence and Matthew's driving has been steady and sensible. We have had no major problems today which is a bonus."