Sardinia - Stobart M-Sport Ford - Finish
Italians Gigi Galli/Giovanni Bernacchini have impressed last weekend finishing fourth on their home event of Rally d'Italia Sardegna, round six of the FIA World Rally Championship. The fantastic achievement also helps the Stobart
M-Sport Ford rally team edge closer to third in the Manufacturers' Championship as they narrow the gap to just eight points.
Stobart team-mates Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin dusted off some early cobwebs to finish the event a well-earned 12th position. The pair struggled with small setup issues on Friday morning losing a large chunk of time but were able to battle their way back to a solid position by the end of the event.
Galli's form was on-song from beginning until end and even though he picked up a puncture on stage 2 due to a hard impact with a bank, his Pirelli tyres held up well until the end of the stage. He lost just 70 seconds and finished less than two minutes off the rally winner by the end of Sunday's leg. Among his multitude of top-three fastest stage times, nine of which he set, stage 4 was his greatest effort which he won by 1.5 seconds over Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala. The achievement made it his 15th WRC career stage win.
Unfortunately the event was not the most desirable for Wilson whose setup woes on Friday swayed the balance of his plans for this event.
Saturday's morning loop of stages also saw trouble for the Brit as he lost feeling in his brakes - and consequently his confidence - over the three opening tests until the problem could be rectified in service.
Galli too was not without incident as he also had a spin on the first run over the 29.31 kilometre Monte Lerno stage. Putting it down to driver error, the spin lost the Italian around 20 seconds and a possible second stage win on his home event.
The opening 16 stages of Rally Sardinia took place to the south of Rally HQ which was again based in the industrial town of Olbia in the island's north-east. The final 2.69 kilometre stage which ran to the north of Olbia was unfortunately cancelled after Wilson passed through it due to the large spectator numbers who flocked to see WRC action up close and personal.
The loose gravel stages again proved to be one of the toughest tests on the WRC circuit as crews tackled narrow roads which were lined with large trees and rally-ending rocks. Jumps again were a big showman factor here in Sardinia with two gravity-defying leaps amazing crowds on Saturday's stages – many crews stating it was the highest they had ever travelled in a world rally car.
The Stobart M-Sport Ford rally team will now head to Athens for the Acropolis Rally of Greece in two weeks' time where Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud will re-join the team after serving duties with the Munchi's Ford World Rally Team this weekend in Sardinia.
Stobart Group CEO Andrew Tinkler:
"We have seen another great drive from Gigi and a really concerted effort after dropping time on the first day. His energy and passion for the sport shone through and to climb back up to fourth topped off a fantastic performance. Matthew and Scott had a steady drive and I know they struggled with the set-up. But it's a great result for the Stobart team, especially now we have closed the gap to Subaru."