Stobart Served a Course of Tough Turkey
The fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship got off to a dramatic start today as several drivers including Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team's Henning Solberg encountered problems in the opening day of Rally Turkey.
of enthusiastic fans flocked to the historical Sultanahment Square in the heart of Istanbul last night to witness the ceremonial start of the sixth edition of Rally Turkey. The WRC champions had a photo shoot beside the Blue Mosque with several Turkish Government officials including the State Minister for Sport, Faruk Nafiz Ozak, before signing autographs for fans and returning by ferry to Rally HQ in Pendik.
The newly located rally based in the Asian side of Istanbul includes 358km of competitive stage distance over 23 tests. The special stages are very fast, wide and rough - but the predominantly gravel route also contains almost 50km of asphalt which will prove difficult for the teams on roads they are not familiar with.
Henning Solberg's Ford Focus RS WRC encountered problems after 13km of SS1 this morning as he hit a tree stump which resulted in a broken steering arm and early retirement from Day 1 of the rally. Solberg's right steering arm was fixed this afternoon and the Norwegian will re-enter the rally tomorrow under SupeRally regulations where he will try to catch up on some of the time lost from today.
Stobart's Matthew Wilson also got off to a shaky start when his car veered wide on a sharp right-hand turn hitting two rocks and damaging the left side of his door but Wilson successfully went on to complete the first four stages finishing in eighth position.
The 23-year-old encountered further problems in the sixth stage as they tried to avoid a rock on the road and hit a pothole, damaging the front right wheel and causing it to go out of line. The damage also affected the Ford Focus RS WRC's steering and cost the young Cumbrian valuable time as he was forced to slow down, dropping into ninth position behind Kimi Raikonnen.
The final stage of the opening day was a super special stage held in Istanbul next to the Bosphorus Strait where thousands of spectators watched the WRC drivers compete round a special 2.20km circuit.
On Saturday the crews will face the most challenging day yet as the team cover 145.82km of rough stages - including the longest stage of the rally at 27.17km. The Stobart team's Ford Focus RS WRC's will look to take advantage of the durable Pirelli Scorpion tyre to enhance their positions in the second day of Rally Turkey.
Other Rally News
The BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team are well placed with Mikko Hirvonen lying third and Jari-Matti Latvala in sixth position. Other than Latvala struggling with his rhythm there was nothing to trouble the Focus RS WRC duo.
The Citroen Rally Team dominated the opening day of Rally Turkey today with Sebastien Ogier claiming the lead from just the third stage. Sebastien Loeb
is currently in fifth position.
Munchi's Ford World Rally Team driver Federico Villagra made a good start in the opening day of Rally Turkey encountering no major problems with the change of co-driver and finishing the day in seventh position in front of Kimi Raikonnen
The Monster World Rally Team encountered problems in today's opening stage when Ken Block drove into the same tree stump which caused Henning Solberg to retire. Ken will be looking to re-enter the rally tomorrow under SupeRally regulations.
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
"Today's been a tough day and hitting rocks in the opening stage really knocked my confidence. By the third stage I felt everything was running much better but during stage six I hit a hole on a right hand corner which damaged the front right wheel. It really affected my steering and I had to be more cautious and slower than I wanted to be which cost me valuable time. I'm looking to improve on my times tomorrow."
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
"I usually drive well on fast gravel stages and to retire so early in the first day without even finishing one stage is very disappointing. The damage on the car has been repaired so I look forward to restarting the rally tomorrow to make up for lost time today."
Stobart M-Sport Ford Team Principle Malcolm Wilson said:
"Both Stobart cars have had a difficult opening day as the stages have been deceptively tough. Henning was extremely unlucky in the first stage after a fantastic start but Matthew is in a good position to improve on his time tomorrow. Saturday should give both the Stobart crews an opportunity to show what they are capable of given a clean run."