After one complete day of the Uddeholm Swedish Rally, round two of the FIA World Rally Championship, all three Stobart VK M-Sport Ford crews nestle in point scoring positions with Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud leading the way on a podium spot in third. Gigi Galli/Giovanni Bernacchini
follow close behind their team-mates in fourth place while Brits Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin run in seventh after a great day of consistent driving.
With both nominated point scoring drivers inside the top-four it has been a great start for the team as they continue to back-up the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team who currently occupy the top two places on the leaderboard with former Stobart ace Jari-Matti Latvala leading the way. Tomorrow morning will therefore see four Ford Focus RS WRC07 cars lead the pack after a successful opening day for the manufacturer.
Today offered crews three special stages run twice over before heading back to Karlstad Rally Village for a final blast over the 1.9 kilometre super special. The stages were held to the north west of Rally HQ around the town of Sunne which played host to the first of two different remote services for this event. The remote service gave crews an opportunity to attach brand new Pirelli Sottozero tyres which managed to hold most of their 380 tungsten-tipped studs despite large amounts of exposed gravel due to lack of snow.
This morning’s loop began with reasonable conditions but still stood tricky, catching out many top crews including current World Champion Sèbastien Loeb. The afternoon set of stages painted a different picture as the icy roads turned into gravel with over 60 cars passing through the morning tests exposing large amounts of earth.
Solberg’s efforts today have been nothing short of superb as he posted four top-three stage times to finish just 8.1 seconds from second placed overall driver Mikko Hirvonen. The Norwegian’s outset from the start of this event has been to finish on the podium and so far things are on-track for the Stobart driver.
Italian superstar Galli has begun the Swedish Rally by exhibiting the form he has shown in the past to lie just 5.7 seconds behind his team-mate. To top off a super day Galli managed to win his first ever stage with the Stobart team by coming home fastest over the Karlstad Super Special again in front of a sell-out crowd. The 35-year-old has been taking a cautious approach as he continues to learn about the Focus RS and will be exciting to watch as the event comes to a close over the next two days.
For Wilson today has been a great continuation from last year where he performed exceptionally well on the final three events of the season. The newly turned 21-year-old set a multitude of top-ten fastest stage times including a sixth fastest on Mangen 1. The only real problem today was with an intercom halfway through stage 3 but after a quick swap with his co-driver the problem was temporarily rectified until it could be completely restored during mid-day service.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Gigi Galli said:
“I am extremely happy with everything today we have had a good run and the Pirelli tyres have coped well as there has been a lot of gravel in some stages. This is only my second rally in the car and we must be happy with our performance. I have made no mistakes today except one small slide where we lost about five seconds. The car is feeling really good and tomorrow’s stages we did last year so hopefully we can maintain the pace.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
“It’s been a good day for us and I’m happy with this position. The gap to second is close and I’d like to be able to close it tomorrow. It’s no secret I have been pushing hard today maybe a little too hard in places and we have had a few slides because of this. We made a very big jump on stage 6 it was incredible and very exciting inside the car. Tomorrow we will keep pushing for sure.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
“Seventh is a great position to be in after day 1 and our performance today has been really positive. We started off well on the first stage this morning which gave me more confidence for the rest of today. The car has felt good with no problems at all and we have maintained a constant safe pace all day. I’m happy to be safely inside the points.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“Today has been another fantastic day for the Stobart team with both nominated point scoring drivers in third and fourth positions providing a strong back-up to the BP Ford Abu Dhabi team. Matthew’s excellent position today has topped this off and we now have all three Stobart cars in the top-seven. All cars have run faultlessly and Henning [Solberg] and Gigi’s [Galli] pace has been impressive as you can see from the times. Hopefully they can maintain this strong position for the team tomorrow. ”
Leaderboard after Day 1
1. J-M Latvala/M Anttila FIN Ford Focus RS 1h03m33.3sec
2. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Ford Focus RS +48.2s
3. H Solberg/C Menkerud N Ford Focus RS +56.3s
4. G Galli/G Bernacchini I Ford Focus RS +1m02.0s
5. P Solberg/P Mills N Subaru Impreza +1m45.2s
6. M Ostberg/O Unnerud N Subaru Impreza +2m15.1s
7. M Wilson/S Martin GB Ford Focus RS +2m59.6s
8. T Gardemeister/T Tuominen FIN Suzuki SX4 +3m21.6s
9. A Mikkelsen/O Floene N Ford Focus RS +4m05.8s
10. P Sandell/E Axelsson SWE Peugeot 207 +5m14.6s
Stobart M-Sport Ford