Wilson Continues Top-Five Consistency In WRC
M-Sport Stobart’s Matthew Wilson remains on track for securing his best ever season in the FIA World Rally Championship after posting his second consecutive top-five finish at this week’s Jordan Rally.
The 24-year-old Cumbrian was hot on the tail of Kimi Räikkönen throughout the final day of action and successfully moved ahead of the Finn on the day’s closing stages to notch up his third top-five finish in the Middle East.
After Thursday’s stages were cancelled due to a delayed boat carrying vital service park infrastructure, the going was made difficult for WRC crews who were forced to combat one of the longest stages of the WRC calendar – the 41.45 km Jordan River Stage – in the rally’s opening leg on Friday.
However, Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin – who were paying a special tribute in memory of Edward Stobart with a sticker on the bonnet of their Ford Fiesta RS WRC – showed a gradual improvement in their times throughout the first day. The duo completed the 17.20 km Kafrain stage 23.6 seconds quicker on the second pass and finished the day only 12 seconds adrift of Kimi Räikkönen in sixth place.
Determined to catch the 2007 Formula One Champion, Wilson set two quick stage times on Saturday’s opening leg and the gap between the two drivers closed to a mere 7.3 seconds. A puncture for Räikkönen on Stage 19 saw the Cumbrian move ahead of the Finn, securing Wilson his fifth-place finish and ten valuable drivers’ points.
Jordan Rally debutant Mads Østberg opted for a cautious approach on Friday morning, eager to learn the new stages and to gain valuable experience of the newly-developed Michelin tyres. By Stage 8, however, Østberg had found a good rhythm and finished the Kafrain stage fifth-fastest. By the end of the opening loop the M-Sport Stobart driver was sixth overall, 3.6 seconds behind fellow Fiesta RS WRC driver Mikko Hirvonen.
Stage 10 saw the return of dreaded technical gremlins for Østberg and Swedish co-driver Jonas Andersson when their Fiesta RS WRC suffered from a broken gearbox and forced the Scandinavians to retire. The M-Sport Stobart duo returned for the final day of action under SupeRally regulations but a disheartened Østberg struggled with motivation after Friday’s disappointment but was keen to experiment with different set-ups in order to learn more about the car in preparation for Sardinia.
Henning Solberg – who celebrated his 100th WRC in Jordan this week - reported his Fiesta RS WRC was running perfectly on Friday’s opening two stages, but disaster struck when he hit a rock on the 41.45 km Jordan River Stage which damaged the oil sump and forced the Norwegian to retire.
Solberg and co-driver Ilka Minor returned under SupeRally regulations on Saturday to set two third-fastest stage times during the event’s closing leg. The M-Sport Stobart driver gradually climbed the WRC leaderboard and finished the fourth round of the WRC 13th overall.
Matthew Wilson said:
“We’ve got a good track record at this rally and it’s great to finish with another top-five result straight after Portugal. We didn’t have too many dramas today - we hit a bank on a junction and stalled the engine on Stage 14 but it didn’t cost us too much time. At times we found it difficult to find good rhythm and decent grip but we were able to go flat out when the feeling was good. We’ve definitely noticed a big improvement with the Michelin tyres – they’re very strong and even though they’ve had to sacrifice some of the grip to make up for the durability, they’ve been fantastic for an event like this where it is so rocky out on the stages.”
Mads Østberg said:
“I am disappointed – it’s my second rally in a row where I’ve had to SupeRally and it’s frustrating. I just want to have a clean rally for the next few events – it is important for the sponsors. We have been testing this afternoon – it’s always good to try a few different things. I really pushed on the Power Stage but had a bit of a moment when I thought a left-hander over a crest was a right-hander. I’m looking forward to going home now and hope that Sardinia will be a better event for me.”
Henning Solberg said:
“There has been a lot of rocks on the stages today so we had to be a bit careful not to get a puncture but the car has been feeling good today. In fact, we’ve had a very nice feeling for most of the stages so I am disappointed that we had our problems yesterday morning and had to retire. I felt like the car had a lot more power this afternoon - our split times were good and we had two top-three fastest times which I am very happy with. Hopefully we can finally have a clear run in Sardinia – I hope this will be the case as when everything is going good, the car runs perfect.”
M-Sport Stobart Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“It’s been a disappointing rally for Mads and Henning but at least they were both able to get to the end of a difficult rally and score some manufacturer points for the team. It’s been a solid performance from Matthew this weekend – this is now his second top-five finish of the season so hopefully he can look to continue this consistency in Sardinia next month. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the team for their tremendous efforts on Thursday which enabled everything to be ready in time for the drivers’ starting on Friday, it’s fantastic to see such team spirit.”