Catalunya - Stobart M-Sport Ford - Day Two
Day Two of the FIA World Rally Championship's 12th round has seen both crews of the Stobart M-Sport Ford rally team remain in Manufacturers' Championship points-scoring positions with one day of competition remaining.
Latvala/Miikka Anttila head the charge in eighth place after a faultless day of driving while teammates Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin remain comfortably in 10th, and in the final manufacturer point-scoring position as well.
Latvala's day saw him set top ten stage times on every occasion, but the young Finn admitted he couldn't quite find the perfect set-up for his Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC07 and this in turn dented his confidence on the fast Spanish tarmac.
The 23-year-old had a reasonable day fighting in a battle for seventh position with Australian driver Chris Atkinson of the Subaru team. Despite finishing behind in the fight, the Finn will head into tomorrow's final day just 3.4 seconds adrift of a further drivers' point.
Wilson got off to a good start this morning but some slight understeer on stage eight saw him drop a few seconds before he regained his confidence with the car and set another quick time on the final test before service.
With some differential changes made to his Focus RS during service the young Brit headed back out this afternoon with a better feeling and balance to his car, despite the ever-increasing presence of loose gravel dragged onto the stage surface.
A repeat loop of three stages was the makeup of Day Two, offering crews 127.98 kilometres of competitive action. Today's leg also played host to the longest stage of the rally, the monster 38.27 kilometre El Priorat/La Ribera d'Ebre test.
A cool morning breeze saw 64 of the original 69 starters head north-west of Rally HQ in Salou to tackle the three high-speed morning tests. Temperatures began to warm as the day went on and sunshine broke through for the second consecutive day of clear sky racing.
The challenge of the day was loose gravel on the tarmac which was most predominant on the final 17.12-kilometre La Llena 2 stage, especially in areas where big cuts had been taken by competitors over the first pass. Again teams had to select between a hard or soft compound Pirelli PZero tyre with all WRC competitors opting to go with the firmer option.
Tomorrow's final leg is the shortest of the trio, covering 93.88 kilometres of competitive distance over six special stages. With battles going on throughout the leaderboard it is looking like another action packed final day of rallying on the 12th round of the WRC.
"Today was slightly better than yesterday and we lost less time to the front guys. We were slow this morning when we put new tyres on for the middle stage and it took them a while to bite in to the asphalt properly and get the balance right. I'm not far behind seventh place now so it will be good to be able to put a fight up tomorrow to get that position back. The last stage was tricky as I think we had the car slightly too low and it was touching the ground quite a lot on the cuts. I'm also thinking about Corsica and my car setup for that event."
"Today has been reasonably good. We had a good run through the long stage both times but I just struggled to get to grips with the middle stage in the loop. We made some changes at lunchtime service and I found a better diff setting which helped for the afternoon. The last stage today was very difficult as there was lots of gravel pulled out and lots of cuts where the car was touching and it felt quite unstable. So with those improvements from today I am looking forward to tomorrow where the stages are cleaner with new Tarmac similar to the first stage from today and these were the conditions where we went best."
Team Principal Malcolm Wilson:
"It's been another strong day for the Stobart guys. Jari-Matti has now found a set-up that he's happy with so it would be good to see him being able to take the fight to Chris (Atkinson) tomorrow and get back into seventh place. With both cars in the points as well it would be an impressive result for the team. Matthew has gone well again today and I'm seeing maturity and consistency from him which is continuing to impress me. Points from both cars would be great tomorrow and good preparation for Corsica."