the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team who now has both nominated cars in Manufacturer point's contention. The team currently sits third in the 2007 standings and will be looking to maintain their position heading into tomorrow's final leg. Jari-Matti...
the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team who now has both nominated cars in Manufacturer point's contention. The team currently sits third in the 2007 standings and will be looking to maintain their position heading into tomorrow's final leg.
Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila continued their impressive form to finish the day in a comfortable sixth. Norwegians Henning Solberg and Cato Menkerud improved dramatically overnight to climb three spots into seventh position by day's end.
20-year-old Matthew Wilson and Northern Irish co-driver Michael Orr set a good solid pace all day to finish in 13th just twelve seconds behind local favorite Armindo Araujo.
Heavy downpours this morning made conditions look more like a mud-bath with deep mud taking away the grip and traction so readily found yesterday. Conditions cleared up for the afternoon's loop making surface predictions extremely difficult.
Tyre wear became a major issue this afternoon as some drivers elected to go with softer compounds predicting muddy roads while those who chose a harder tyre seemed to benefit with the roads drying up quite a fair amount under the appearing sun.
Today's stages were more westerly based and played host to the highest elevation in the rally, Almodovar, a 20.89 kilometre tester. Many competitors described the day as a completely different rally to yesterday as they tackled the 152.92 kilometres of muddy competitive route.
Solberg was a rejuvenated man today, putting together some excellent times and never stepping lower than a ninth stage position. The Norwegian now sits 6.6 seconds ahead of his closest rival in eighth and will be looking to hold that gap tomorrow and finish the rally in a very respectable seventh position.
For the young flying Finn, Latvala, it was another impressive session after a big scare on the opening test this morning. He and Anttila had a slight excursion into a field which caused minor cosmetic damage to the car but only lost them ten seconds.
The 21-year-old was also lucky to keep his Ford Focus RS WRC06 going on stage 10 after hitting a compression extremely hard, the same compression that saw the demise of fellow competitors Atkinson and Stohl just minutes before. Latvala will head into tomorrow's leg confident after today's performance.
Young Briton, Wilson, set consistent pace after some big scares early on in the unpredictably slippery surface. Wilson continues to gain valuable experience on a surface that, today, has been so different to any other in the championship.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
"It's coming! I have a very good feeling with the car, we need to make some small changes to get it right for me but I'm happy; it's starting to work well for me. It takes time for me to get things right and I still haven't had a lot of time in the car on gravel. I am slowly getting more confident now though, as we make changes to try and get things to work better. I will focus hard tomorrow to hold my position but I am still not 100 percent confident so I am not going to push 100 percent maybe 85, but yeah it's coming so we will wait and see."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:
"Today hasn't been too good for me. This morning we made the wrong tyre choice and didn't put a big enough cut in the tyres. Because of this we slid off the road slightly and dropped some time. It was much much better this afternoon and everything is starting to feel really great, I'm really enjoying myself now. It felt like the speed was back when the stages dried up and we made the right tyre choice also. You have to respect the top guys, how fast they are going in these conditions is amazing. I know that I need to try and go at this speed also but I can't push it anymore here."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
"This morning was very very difficult, really treacherous conditions. With all the mud there was no traction coming out of hair-pins; you just sat spinning the wheels. Things weren't too bad this afternoon and it started off well; but we went with a softer compound tyre so the car was a bit loose at the end of that loop of stages. It's hard because the grip was good in some places but there was still a lot of mud which made it hard to know when it was coming."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"Things have went well for the team today and it's encouraging to have both Jari and Henning in Manufacturer points positions. It's also impressive that all three crews have improved their performance and completed the day without any major problems. They all seem to be well in control and gathering experience of this new event; and to claim more team points tomorrow will be a great result."