Poland - Stobart M-Sport Ford - Finish
The Stobart M-Sport Ford team had a fantastic finish to Rally Poland, the eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, as Henning Solberg secured his second podium finish of the season.
With Matthew Wilson and guest driver
Krzysztof Holowczyc both scoring points, it is a result which sees the Cumbrian team break through the 250 manufacturer points threshold since joining the championship in 2006.
Solberg scored two stage victories on his way to a dramatic third place; the third rally in a row that the team has taken overall stage wins. Meanwhile Matthew Wilson added good points to his championship standing with fifth place and Krzysztof Holowczyc surpassed his best ever WRC performance with sixth.
Holowczyc made history, scoring Poland's first-ever points in the WRC drivers' championship; a feat which earned him the Abu Dhabi Spirit of the Rally award.
In one of the most exciting rallies of the season so far, both the vast crowds of spectators and the crews revelled in the incredibly fast, flowing roads around the Mazurian Lake District in northern Poland. Changeable weather conditions contributed to the challenge for the drivers on the sandy, tree-lined roads with the surface becoming extremely slippery in the wet.
A capacity 10,000 crowd had set the tone for the weekend as they turned out to watch Thursday night's Super Special stage kick off the rally in Mikolajki. Solberg and co-driver Cato Menkerud began their battle with Petter Solberg which would last throughout the rally, the younger brother snatching the honours.
Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin got the better of Russian youngster Evegeny Novikov, while Holowczyc thrilled the enthusiastic Polish fans by finishing just outside the top ten.
After overcoming set-up problems on the early stages of Day One, Solberg posted some scorching times on the second pass of the three-stage loop along the coast of Sniardwy Lake, taking fifth place and homing in on his brother one place ahead.
Wilson also had a strong day, moving up to seventh and staying in touch with fast-charging Sebastien Ogier one place ahead. Holowczyc and co-driver Lukasz Kurzeja, on a rare outing in a WRC car, found their rhythm as the day went on, ending in ninth and just outside the points.
Day Two took the 47 starting crews east and north of Rally HQ in Mikolajki for the longest day of the rally, 149.44kms over two passes of a three-stage loop. With further changes made to his car overnight, Solberg lifted his game again to hunt down his sibling's Citroen Xsara, aiming to maintain familial advantage in the drivers' championship.
It turned out to be an epic battle, with Ogier also vying for fourth place, and the initiative changed hands constantly throughout the day with Solberg eventually pushed down to sixth at the end of the day, but with just 10 seconds separating all three drivers.
Wilson posted consistently strong times to maintain his place in the points but had to have one eye on the car behind him as Holowczyc moved into eighth place, using all of his local knowledge to try and claim his first WRC points finish. But, not for the first time this season, Solberg saved his best for last as he moved up the field again on Sunday.
On the first stage of the morning he moved back up to fifth and continued his excellent run taking victory on the next two stages, closing the gap on Ogier and then taking fourth place as the Frenchman suffered engine problems.
The Norwegian gained a further place in dramatic fashion as the Ford team's Jari-Matti Latvala crashed out from second place on the closing super special stage. That incident elevated Wilson to fifth, a reward for another weekend of mature and consistent driving.
After a steady morning, which had seen teammate Holowczyc cut his advantage, he turned up the pace this afternoon to stay ahead and score more good points for the team. Holowczyc's sixth capped off a fabulous weekend for the team.
"Wow, what an end to the rally, it's very sad for Ford but the podium is fantastic for me. We have come a long way since Thursday when the feeling after shakedown wasn't very good and today the car has been much better. I've been driving as fast as I can on this rally and really been pushing hard in the battle with Petter; the fastest stage times we had today prove just that. We have had a learning weekend and this rally has some fantastic stages but it's also been very difficult. I've got the result I wanted, and that helps me maintain my position as the best non-factory driver in the championship."
"The stages here have been amazing and the number of people here spectating has just been incredible; they really like their rallying here in Poland. One of the biggest challenges has been adjusting my brain to the speed of the stages here and trying to maintain the rhythm when the type of road changes. It's been really good preparation for Finland from that respect and it will be a help to have had three days driving at these speeds. We have taken a lot from this weekend and I need to just get my notes more consistent to be able to push harder."
"It's been a fantastic rally and I'm very happy with the result. I have become the first Polish driver to score a driver's point and to do it here on my home rally is a very special feeling; we've also scored our best WRC finish ever which was a big surprise at the end. I have to thank the fans, I have never seen so many people and flags and their energy and the atmosphere has really helped me along. It's five years since I have driven a WRC car and they have improved so much, this Focus is incredible and it's helped me to drive in a very clean and precise way."
Stobart M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson:
"It has been a really strong performance by the team on the final day and another podium for Henning after a bizarre last stage. All cars and crews were in good shape when they needed to push to improve their position today and I'm especially pleased for Krzysztof to be the first Pole to score a point in the WRC; it's great that he has done that as a part of the Stobart team. The rally has been really good preparation for Finland so things are looking very positive for the next event."