Rocky Roads Cause Problems for Stobart
An extremely tough day in the second leg of Rally Turkey saw Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor and Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin suffer punctures in the rally's longest stage based next to the Black Sea. Despite this, Matthew Wilson finished the
day moving up into eighth position.
The second full day started in sunny conditions approximately 60km north of Rally HQ where 37 of the 40 original entrants tackled a series of extremely rough stages including the only predominantly tarmac stage of the three-day event. The WRC drivers completed two 72.91km loops of competitive stage distance which included two passes over the longest stage of the rally at 27.17km.
The mixture of gravel and tarmac surfaces throughout the day meant that the Stobart M-Sport Ford teams were forced to use various tyre changing options to find the best strategy to deal with the difficulty of driving on different surfaces.
Stobart's Henning Solberg re-entered under SupeRally Regulations after retiring yesterday when his Ford Focus RS WRC hit a tree stump. The Norwegian started the day in fine fashion beating leader Sebastien Ogier in stage 11 by 1.2 seconds. In the same stage, team-mate Matthew Wilson also beat Formula One Champion, Kimi Raikkonen
, by 12 seconds and Argentinean Rally Champion, Federico Villagra, by 15 seconds. This helped close the gap between the three where an exciting battle for sixth position ensued.
The Stobart team's luck ran out when they reached stage 13 and Solberg hit a ditch, spun and had to change a puncture which cost him nearly three minutes. Matthew Wilson also spun as he approached a junction after a blind crest in the same stage which widened the gap between the young Cumbrian and Federico Villagra.
Stage 15 started the repeat of the morning loop where Solberg and Wilson managed to manipulate the conditions well until they both encountered difficulties in the same closing stage that caused the Stobart crews problems in the morning. Neither Stobart drivers can confirm what caused the punctures but it is presumed that the rocky topped surface and narrow rock chicanes were responsible for Wilson's broken wheel which led to a puncture with only 11kms remaining.
Despite Henning Solberg suffering from a puncture at the end of stage 17 he still managed to finish the stage seventh-fastest. The finale of Rally Turkey tomorrow will comprise of just six stages but these are some of the longest at 114.60km so will require the crews' full attention to ensure they can leave the fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship with crucial Manufacturer Championship Points.
Other Rally News
The Citroen Total Word Rally Team continue to dominate Rally Turkey as Sebastien Loeb
takes the lead after Sebastien Ogier suffered from a puncture in the afternoon's stages. Loeb will carry an overnight rally lead of 16.2 seconds over Petter Solberg.
Monster World Rally Team's Ken Block re-entered the rally today under SupeRally Regulations after he was forced to retire yesterday when he hit the same tree stump as Henning Solberg. Block produced some good times today until he slid off the road and became stuck on the final stage of the day. Block currently lies in 28th position.
The BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team's Mikko Hirvonen finished in third place overall, just 1.1 second adrift on Petter Solberg in second. His team-mate Jari Matti Latvala had an unfortunate opening stage where he rolled losing valuable time and finishing the day in twelfth position.
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
"I've had a really unlucky day getting two punctures on the same stage - there were so many rocks and it was really tough going. It's been some of the rockiest stages I've seen but tomorrow should be better as the stages are a bit smoother and hopefully we can continue the fight with Kimi [Raikkonen] and Federico [Villagra]."
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
"The conditions have been very tough today and the puncture we got on the last stage, I don't even know what caused it -- it could have been any of the rocks. We haven't been taking any chances today, it doesn't make any sense after retiring yesterday so the only positive thing is that we can still score some Manufacturer Points tomorrow."
Stobart M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"It's been a really hard day for the Stobart team but Henning has done well to fight back after his unlucky exit in the opening stage yesterday morning. Matthew has done well to maintain his position but both Henning and Matthew have been quite unlucky to suffer from punctures in the rocky stages. This was always going to be a difficult rally and hopefully the team will suffer no major problems tomorrow and produce some more points for the team."