Argentina - Stobart M-Sport Ford - Finish
The Stobart M-Sport Ford Team romped to their best result since Rally Japan in 2007 as Henning Solberg achieved his first podium of 2009, finishing third, with Matthew Wilson coming in two minutes further behind in fifth position
The ten-point haul means that the Stobart team have closed the gap on the second-placed Ford team to just six points in the manufacturer standings.
In some of the toughest conditions experienced at Rally Argentina in recent years, both Stobart crews showed the consistency and reliability that has become their trademark over the course of this season to avoid the pitfalls that caught out other crews, and steadily moved up the standings over the course of the rally.
Starting the final day of the event in fifth and seventh places respectively, the Ford Focus RS WRCs of Solberg and Wilson stood up well to the exceptionally rough and rutted conditions on the short loop of stages to the north and west of the Service Park in Villa Carlos Paz.
As Jari-Matti Latvala and Petter Solberg fell by the wayside, the Stobart duo stayed on course for an outstanding result.
The fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship started in spectacular style on Thursday with the first of three super special stages in the Cordoba Stadium. Wilson was pitted against fellow young gun Sebastien Ogier, coming in just one second behind the Frenchman to finish ninth. Meanwhile Solberg, the winner of two super specials in Portugal earlier this month, went up against brother Petter, finishing 0.6 seconds behind the younger Solberg and taking fifth place overall at that point.
Solberg and co-driver Cato Menkerud had to overcome problems with dust coming into the car on Day One's sandy, slippery stages but did well to stay in contact with the crews around them, including Latvala and Petter Solberg.
Meanwhile Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin climbed up from their overnight position of ninth to finish the day in seventh place.
Day Two saw the drivers tackle some of the most iconic stages of Rally Argentina taking in the spectacular lunar landscapes of Mina Clavero and the soaring heights of El Condor, the highest stage on the WRC calendar this season at 2122 metres.
Both Solberg and Wilson struggled with set-up issues on the morning loop but soaked up every challenge thrown at them by the unforgiving Argentine stages, with Wilson losing time early on as he swerved to avoid a dog on the road.
Thanks to the endeavours of the team engineers during the midday service, both drivers were more pleased with their set-up and began their charge back up the field on the afternoon stages.
Wilson spent much of the day locked in a battle with Argentine champion Federico Villagra, eventually coming off second-best to the more experienced local man and ended the day in seventh following the second super special stage in the Cordoba Stadium.
On Sunday, the patience shown on Saturday paid off on the final day as Wilson moved up to take his best result of the season so far. Wilson got his revenge somewhat as he beat Villagra in the Cordoba Stadium on the final stage of the rally; the overall fourth place final result was only 11.2 seconds behind his Argentine rival.
"It's a fantastic result for us, I can't believe it. It's been such a long time since my last podium and we have really worked hard this year and especially on this event; it was much tougher than I expected. I'm very sorry for Petter, he has done a good job here also, but this is what happens in rallying. I spent time before this rally working on the set-up with my engineer because I knew we could do well here if I had a good feeling. It was difficult on Saturday, the stages started off slippery then got very rough and we struggled a bit with getting the car to turn in. We have got a Ford on the podium and collected points for the Stobart team and me; now I'm back into fourth and ahead of Petter in the championship."
"I'm very happy with this finish and it's great to get back scoring more points after our retirement last time out in Portugal. We could have finished higher, I think fourth would have been possible, but we just lost too much time on the second day. The damper problem meant we lost the feeling with the car and we couldn't push as hard as we needed in order to stay in the battle with Federico; those stages were so technical and twisty that any problem will drop you lots of time. It has been one of the roughest events I have ever done, worse than Greece in places, but to finish with more points and maintain my improved run this season is great and a big boost."
Team Principal Malcolm Wilson:
"We've witnessed another solid team result for Stobart and a very clever and calculated drive by Henning. After the recce both crews felt that they would have to treat this rally with respect, they have done just that and have been rewarded with strong finishes and a fantastic podium for Henning and Cato. The cars have run faultlessly throughout this event, one of the toughest Rally Argentinas for a long time, and helped the guys deliver an impressive team performance."