Wilson seizes sixth with Stobart in Mexican spectacular
Brits Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin have scored their first points for the year this weekend on the third round of the FIA World Rally Championship; Corona Rally Mexico. The pair finished sixth overall capturing
three valuable manufacturers' points for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team.
Sixth place also secures Wilson with his first drivers' point for 2008 putting him 10th in the Drivers' Championship. This was the first event for the year in which he and co-driver Martin were nominated to score manufacturer points for the Stobart squad and it is Martin's best ever result in the WRC; eclipsing his previous best of eighth in Rally Mexico last year.
Unfortunately their team-mates Gigi Galli/Giovanni Bernacchini were unsuccessful in scoring points on this round after retiring from the event on Friday. It was a cruel blow after two great opening rounds this year which included a podium on last month's Swedish Rally.
It has been a fine rally for Wilson who constantly set top-seven stage times and never stepped out of the top-10 for the duration of the event. His split times, especially on the opening day, were impressive and often on-par with the top-running drivers as he showed a vast improvement on last year's form.
It was not all smooth sailing for the 21-year-old and on a couple of occasions his rally was put in jeopardy. A stray dog on stage 11 caused some minor damage to the front end of his Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC07 while on stage 13 a stone was thrown at his windscreen, damaging the glass and causing some visibility issues over the closing kilometres of day 2.
Wilson also lost just under one minute on day 1 after becoming stuck in the dust of fellow WRC competitor Toni Gardemeister for five kilometres on the Ortega 1 stage. A spin on a hairpin right on Saturday also lost the young Brit 10 seconds when he stalled his car in the process.
Galli retired on stage 4 after running wide on a fast left-hand bend, breaking the trailing arm on his Focus RS when he brushed against a large rock. This in turn caused slight damage to the rear section of the rollcage and a decision was made by the FIA and the team to retire the car from the event from a safety point of view.
The 354 scheduled competitive kilometres were cut short when stage 18 was cancelled due to a safety issue on spectator numbers. On Saturday extremely calm winds forced event organisers to extend the on-road gap to three minutes between each World Rally Car as lingering dust became far too dangerous to run them at the usual two minute intervals.
Weather conditions stayed true to Rally Mexico tradition offering crews perfect blue skies and high 20 centigrade temperatures over all three days. It was a demanding event on all crews with stages being run at the highest altitude in the championship; the highest on day 1 took crews more than 2700 metres above sea level.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
"Finishing inside the top-six is a great feeling and I am happy with how our pace has improved from last year. When we got into the position on Saturday we were in a bit of a no man's land with big gaps to fifth and seventh but with Gigi out on Friday it was important to finish and keep the Stobart team in a strong position. I am happy to have scored valuable points for the team on my first event as a nominated point-scoring driver. We have had three reasonable rallies this year and sure it would have been nice to come here with points from Sweden but the speed I feel has set me up for a good start to the year. The first time I tried these new Pirelli gravel tyres was on shakedown but now I have a full event with them and the feeling is good so I'm really looking forward to Argentina and seeing what we can do there."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Gigi Galli said:
"It was very disappointing what happened on stage 4 on Friday and the fact we retired from the event. It was the first corner and I came flat in third gear and the car slid too wide and we banged into a rock. We tried to fix the problem on the stage but ended up losing too much time and had to retire. It was just so silly because everything was feeling good and it was so unlucky that we hit the rock because I felt like I was set up well for the fast left-hand corner. It is a shame I only got to drive about 60 kilometres on gravel and with the new tyres but I'm sure the experience will help me when we go to Argentina for the next round."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"This has been an impressive performance by the Stobart team considering it was just Matthew scoring points after Gigi retired on Friday. Sixth is a great position especially in his first event as a nominated driver for the year. It was very encouraging that he was able to deliver some points as it was what he had to do here and this is good to know for the future of the team. A positive is the pace of Gigi on the opening day and with Henning's performance here also the Stobart team will have another very strong line-up in Argentina. This has also been the first time the guys have driven on the new Pirelli tyre and I think they will take a lot from this event into the next round."
Stobart Group Ltd CEO Andrew Tinkler said:
"This has been a terrific rally for Matthew and his performance has helped the Stobart team remain in a strong position in the championship. Scott has achieved his best ever WRC result and I am really pleased for him as his enthusiasm and professionalism is a fine representation of what the Stobart brand is all about. It is a shame about Gigi's retirement but he showed great potential and exceptional speed on the first day and I think that both he and Matthew can continue this form to the next round in Argentina. It has been another great job by M-Sport and the Ford Focus has again proved to be the most reliable car in the tough conditions."