Stobart Jump into Action in Jordan
A measured approach saw Stobart M-Sport Ford drivers Matthew Wilson and Henning Solberg placed in the top ten of the overall standings after completing the first day of Jordan Rally, round three of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Cumbria-based team's crews conquered the extreme heat and the tricky rock-lined stages with no major problems and in a good position to make progress on day two of the event.
Jordan Rally began with a taste of history with a unique opening ceremony in the ancient ruins of the Roman-built city of Jerash. Large crowds of enthusiastic and noisy Jordanian fans gathered to see the stars of the WRC cross the starting line before departing the city for the first stage of the rally.
With temperatures nudging 30 degrees centigrade starting crews faced a stiff test both physically and mentally as they navigated their way through the first day's schedule, which comprised of seven stages totalling 95.70km split into two loops - four tests in the morning and three in the afternoon.
Stobart's Henning Solberg opened the rally in fine fashion for the Stobart team as he went fifth-fastest through the 15.34km SS1 Rumman Forest, quicker than reigning champion Sebastien Loeb
in sixth. Team-mate Matthew Wilson also started well but lost a few seconds driving round a big rock thrown onto the stage and was seventh-fastest.
Like the rest of the field the Stobart duo struggled to find decent levels of grip on the loose gravel surface, but with the durable Pirelli Scorpion tyre holding up very well in the rough conditions around the Dead Sea stages they ran in the top ten throughout the rest of the morning's tests before returning to the first service of the event with Solberg in seventh overall and Wilson eighth.
With the Stobart crews reporting that there was little sweeping of the stages by the cars ahead to benefit from they entered the afternoon's loop looking to consolidate their positions in the top ten and avoid making any mistakes that would cost them early in the rally.
Both Stobart M-Sport Ford Focus RS WRCs emerged from the 8.65km km SS5 Wadi Shueib and 20.44km SS6 Mahes tests unscathed, with Solberg and Wilson going seventh and eighth-fastest on both. Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin had a small drama before the start of SS7 as an electrical issue temporarily knocked out their dashboard readings and intercom, but the pair quickly fixed the problem before the stage began and went on to complete it sixth-fastest.
A solid day's work in difficult conditions saw Solberg placed seventh overall and Wilson just behind in eighth, and both drivers confident of their chances of upping their pace when the second leg begins tomorrow (Friday).
The second full day of Jordan Rally is the longest of the rally despite featuring the least stages. Two loops of three tests will see drivers take on 138.28km of competitive distance -- including the awesome 41.45km Jordan River stage which will test their abilities, and that of their cars, to the limits.
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
"The stages were really good when the surface cleaned up in the afternoon and there was a bit more grip. It was so slippery in the morning but by the afternoon it was better. The man-made sections weren't as enjoyable to drive but the other parts really flowed and we started to get into a good rhythm over the last few stages of the day and really enjoyed it. The car has been spot on and we won't change anything for tomorrow. It's been great to get through the first day with no issues after Mexico so we've got a good feeling and we're looking forward to tomorrow."
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
"It was quite difficult to drive quickly in the morning but it was better later in the day. I was pushing but I didn't get the times I wanted. I'm not sure why this was because the car felt ok. Maybe we will make a few small changes and see what we can do tomorrow."
Stobart M-Sport Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"It's been a solid start to the event for the Stobart team and Henning and Matthew have driven smoothly throughout the day. They have got their cars set up the way they want and picked up their pace in the afternoon. With both crews in the points and in a good position they should be able to push on in what is a very long day tomorrow."