ШSTBERG LEADS RALLY SWEDEN AND BREAKS RECORD FOR STOBART
Rally Sweden leaders Mads Шstberg and Jonas Andersson have today broken a new record as they become the first M-Sport Stobart team-mates to lead a rally at the end of a full day of action in the FIA World Rally Championship.
The 23-year-old Norwegian driver made a perfect debut for the M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team in the all-new Ford Fiesta RS WRC and currently leads Rally Sweden by 14.8 seconds thanks to his remarkable performance.
Шstberg, driving in conjunction with Adapta Motorsport, racked up three fastest stage times during today's six snow-covered stages covering 129.34 km -- a fantastic achievement for the Norwegian who only tested the new Fiesta RS World Rally Car for the first time last weekend.
The Scandinavian pulled into the end of Day One 14.8 seconds clear of Ford Abu Dhabi's Mikko Hirvonen who currently sits in second place.
Team-mates Henning Solberg and co-driver Ilka Minor also made a strong debut in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC today in Sweden. Despite Solberg reporting slippery road conditions, the pair posted two top three stage times and the Norwegian was just 11.2 seconds off snatching third place from his brother Petter at the end of Stage 5.
However, a ten second penalty for a jump start at the start of Stage 6 meant Solberg dropped down to fifth, 10.3 seconds behind fellow Fiesta RS WRC driver Jari-Matti Latvala.
Britain's Matthew Wilson reported steering problems throughout Friday morning but a change in set-up at the midday service noticeably improved the 24-year-old's times on the repeat afternoon pass. The young Cumbrian and his co-driver Scott Martin moved from 19th position at the end of the opening loop to 15th overall at the end of Day One.
Mads Шstberg said:
"I've never been in this position but it feels great -- I could definitely get used to it! We had a very good morning and the car was running perfectly but I lost some time this afternoon which is a little disappointing. I'm going to be first on the road tomorrow which is a disadvantage so I really wanted to make as big a gap as possible to try and take off some pressure tomorrow morning. The last stage today was just unbelievable -- I hit a dip about 2 km in and knocked the front light pod so it was pointing at a funny angle. It was a nightmare to try and drive without proper lighting and I couldn't see much but I was still trying to push. In my head, there is no such thing as tactics -- I just go at my own speed and enjoy it but tomorrow I will be on maximum attack."
Henning Solberg said:
"The car set-up has been running much better this afternoon -- we made some changes in service and now everything is feeling a lot nicer. I'm having a lot of fun on these stages but I'm pushing all the time. The road conditions were also a lot smoother this afternoon -- it stopped snowing just before Stage 5 and I'm starting to get used to the car now. I like the Fiesta RS WRC a lot, it's really fun to drive and now that the set-up is working well I think that tomorrow will be another good day for us."
Matthew Wilson said:
"The difference between this afternoon compared to this morning is like night and day. After the changes we made at service, I felt like I was driving a different car so it's taken me a bit of time to get used to everything. The grip is a lot better and it feels amazing to be able to slide the car and for it not to stiffen up like it did this morning. Everything is running a lot smoother. The last stage was difficult - the lights were moving all over the place because the conditions were so rough but it's been an OK day. I'll be looking to step up the pace tomorrow now that I'm feeling more comfortable with the car set-up."
M-Sport Stobart Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"It's incredible to have four Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Cars in the top five of the WRC leaderboard, especially on their debut event. It's also an added bonus that today's leader is an M-Sport Stobart Ford driver -- a new record as the team have never led a rally at the end of a full day in their six year history. Mads has led from start to finish today and made a truly fantastic debut in our new car. Henning has also produced a very polished performance and our two nominated point-scorers have helped put the team in a very strong position going into Day Two. Matthew had an unfortunate morning with power steering problems but this was rectified in the first service and he did well this afternoon to make up some of the time he lost in the opening three stages."