Galli glides into points for Stobart
Italian crew Gigi Galli/Giovanni Bernacchini have helped the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team to three vital manufacturers' points on the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship this weekend. Galli's seventh place in his Stobart
Ford Focus RS WRC07 sees him maintain fifth in the Drivers' Championship and the team hold fourth in the Manufacturers' Championship after Rally Argentina.
Results were not so fortunate for Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud and Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin who all retired from the event on the final day. Both drivers were running well inside the points at different stages of the event but were struck down by the treacherous weather conditions which hampered this year's South American round.
Galli's result was a fantastic achievement considering he retired from day 2 at mid-day service with problems caused by the rough terrain that took over the given time limit to fix. The 35-year-old set a multitude of top-three stage times on the opening day of Rally Argentina posting the fastest on the second pass of San Marcos on Friday afternoon.
Stobart's second nominated point scorer was not so fortunate, retiring from each day under different circumstances. On day 1 Solberg retired with a broken top-mount after clipping a surface rock sticking up on the racing line. The Norwegian withdrew from the afternoon stages on Saturday to preserve his car for next month's Jordan Rally and re-entered today under SupeRally regulations, only to retire on the opening test with suspension damage.
Twenty-one-year-old Wilson was running well at the halfway point of Rally Argentina sitting in sixth position and staying out of trouble. Unfortunately on stage 15 the Brit struck trouble on the final corner when the track control arm on his Focus RS broke forcing him to retire from the leg.
The youngster re-started the final day in an effort to gain maximum experience and some more gravel miles before Jordan but unfortunately retired on the opening test with broken front suspension.
This year's Rally Argentina has very much been a rally of attrition with horrendous weather conditions making it one of the most challenging events in recent years. Torrential downpours, mud, fog and wild winds were the common tune this weekend as several crews fell victim to the unpredictable conditions.
The rally's 348 kilometres took competitors higher than 2000 metres above sea level at times as they covered 21 special stages including three runs over the 1.78 Estadio C0x00f3rdoba super special. The next event for the Stobart team will be Jordan Rally 24-27 April where both Galli and Solberg will again score points for the side.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Gigi Galli said:
"Wow, last night I did not think I could finish this rally in seventh position but it just goes to show the rally isn't over until you cross the finish ramp. What happened yesterday was unlucky for us and my mechanics did a fantastic job trying so hard to fix the car before time ran out so I must say thank you to them all. On the first day things felt very good even though the conditions were the worst I have ever driven in my career. We had some good stage times and even a fastest on one of them so this is a good sign for Jordan because I have only had limited kilometres on gravel, in the car. There have been so many people out supporting this rally even though the weather has been terrible and this is great to see."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
"Well it has not been the best event for us but OK this is the way it goes sometimes. We started off quite slow as there was a lot of fog on Friday morning but then on the next few stages we found the feeling and the times were good. It was unfortunate we retired on the first day, the conditions were quite rough and I was unlucky to hit a sharp rock which broke our suspension. This has been the most challenging event in my career but hopefully it will help in the future if there is another event where the weather is really bad like this. Now I am looking forward to Jordan Rally where it is a new event for everybody."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
"This has been the most difficult rally of my career and is one from which I will take away a lot of experience. It was a disappointing end because we were looking good yesterday and my mechanics did an awesome job to get us back out in the afternoon after the problems on Saturday morning. On stage 15 we broke the TCA which was in a slow and smooth corner but it was just one of those things unfortunately. Today was definitely the hardest day in my career, the rain was unbelievable and you could barely see 20 metres in front of you on the stage because of all the thick fog. It would have been nice to finish this event but we had some good times on the first two days and have gained some experience in some of the worst conditions you will face in rallying."
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"This has been one of the most difficult events for the Stobart team in its short history and I am relieved that Gigi has made a comeback today to score good manufacturer points for the team. I'm really pleased with the effort of the whole team, this weekend things have not gone our way but nobody ever gave up and this has resulted in Gigi's good result which leaves him fifth in the Drivers' Championship. This event has been a good platform for all three guys heading into Jordan next month and especially for Henning and Gigi whose first day performances showed some impressive times."