Galli gallops to fourth in Argentina
Gigi Galli/Giovanni Bernacchini have had a stunning day with the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team to finish the opening leg of Rally Argentina in fourth overall. The Italian driver also picked up his second stage win of the year by
finishing quickest over the 9.6 kilometre San Marcos -- Charbonier II test.
Running inside the points along with Galli is Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin who finished an impressive seventh place after consistently improved pace over the day. The young Brit sits comfortably in the position as he searches for yet another points' finish in 2008.
Unfortunately team-mates Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud cut short their day 1 challenge having to retire on stage 5 after taking a heavy impact on a rock damaging the front right suspension on their Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC07.
Despite losing over a minute on the opening stage due to thick fog, Galli managed to climb back up the leaderboard and is now breathing down the neck of Petter Solberg in third position. The 35-year-old sits just 8.8 seconds behind the Norwegian albeit with a 20 second penalty after leaving lunchtime service two minutes late due to extra time required to repair small damage to his rear suspension.
Wilson's day began cautiously in the treacherous conditions but was soon boosted with clearing fog. The 21-year-old constantly set stage times inside the top-10 and was rewarded for his consistency by finishing day 1 in a points scoring position.
The opening stage of Rally Argentina was one of the most challenging, in recent years, for competitors as thick fog and mud made driving at a competitive pace extremely difficult. Many took a cautious approach to the opener with very low visibility throughout the 18.7 kilometres.
Today saw eight stages run to the north of C0x00f3rdoba city before crews returned to the town for the 1.78 kilometre Estadio C0x00f3rdoba super special. In total 150 kilometres of competitive distance were covered before teams headed back to Villa Carlos Paz for the evening's flexi-service.
Last night saw a packed C0x00f3rdoba city centre as 40,000 Argentine rally fans lined the streets for the ceremonial start. Galli had spectators in a frenzy with his stunt on the start ramp, playing to the extremely loud and enthusiastic crowd.
Tomorrow's leg will again see nine stages covered on the opposite side of the C0x00f3rdoba province to the south. Overcast conditions are predicted for day 2 which is the longest of the event at 154 competitive kilometres in length.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Gigi Galli said:
"This morning was probably the two most difficult stages I have ever driven, the amount of road you couldn't see was incredible. I am very happy with my times this afternoon and it feels great to set a fastest stage time already on gravel in the Focus. The people out on the stages have been amazing. There are so many fans, even on the road sections, but they are all being marshalled very safely and it is great to see them all out cheering despite the bad weather. Today was a great day and we will see if we can keep up the speed tomorrow and continue to set fast times. I am very close to the podium now but there is a long way to the finish and finishing is how you get good results."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
"I am very disappointed with what has happened today. We hit a rock on the inside of a right hand corner on stage 5 and broke the right suspension. It is a shame because the feeling was starting to come and we set the third fastest time on stage 4. The mechanics will be working hard tonight and hopefully they can have the car fixed for tomorrow's stages."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
"Today has been quite an eventful one for all WRC crews and I'm happy to be here at the end of day 1 and in a good points' position already. The first two stages this morning were unbelievably tricky but we got through them and started to set some reasonable times when it dried up in the afternoon. I hit a huge rock on stage 5 and we were up on two wheels and I thought the car was going to roll but luckily it landed back on four wheels and held its strength, only doing some small cosmetic damage. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's stages because I like them a lot better with the sandy base. It is going to be interesting and a lot different from how the roads were on recce but hopefully we can continue the pace and stay in the points."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"It has been a superb drive from Gigi today especially in such treacherous conditions. I'm disappointed we dropped him 20 seconds with the penalty for leaving service late, otherwise he would have been second overall but I am delighted he has posted a fastest time today. Matthew has got through a day which has been one of the most difficult he has encountered in his career. He has got to the end without any major issues and is in a good points' position. Tomorrow is going to be another tough and long day and hopefully the guys can continue with their speed and advance up the leaderboard."