Monte-Carlo : Stobart M-Sport Ford - Preview
Cumbria's Matthew Wilson will make history when he arrives in Monte Carlo for the start of this year's World Rally Championship on Thursday the 19th of January. The 18-year-old becomes the youngest driver ever to start a full
programme of events in the sport's global series.
Despite owning a driving licence for less than two years, Wilson will go head-to-head with the best drivers in the world as he travels through 16 countries and crosses five continents in the next 11 months. And what a place to start: right outside Monaco's iconic Casino.
The World Rally Championship might be new to him, but Wilson's already proved his mettle in international rallying. He won Rally Yorkshire – one of the highest calibre events in the UK – last October, driving a Ford Focus RS WRC similar to the one he'll be driving in Monte Carlo. But for Wilson, this year is what his whole life has been leading up to: the chance to play his part in the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team. The chance to take on the world.
With his hopes fulfilled, he now has to conquer any lingering fears, starting with the Monte Carlo Rally. It's an epic, the championship's very own blue riband event. Talk about this rally with seasoned professionals and watch their eyes widen; it's still regarded as potentially the toughest of the 16 rallies in the calendar.
The principality of Monaco is where the rally might be based, but it's high in the French Alps where the action is. The switchback roads are tough enough, but coated, as they often are, in snow, ice, rain or slush, it becomes clear why this event is seen as one of the most demanding challenges in world motorsport.
Wilson won't be alone in the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team this season. The team's second Ford Focus RS WRC will be piloted by four drivers through the year. On round one, triple Belgian champion Pieter Tsjoen takes the wheel of the number 10 Focus. This is Tsjoen's sole 2006 outing with the Cumbrian team, but the 31-year-old brings a wealth of experience. Along with a plethora of domestic triumphs, he has also tasted victory on the world stage, having won a highly competitive battle on the production car round of the 2002 Catalunya Rally.
“This is an amazing opportunity that people like the Stobarts and Steve Perez, from VK, have provided me with. I certainly intend to make the most of it. Monte Carlo is a really tricky rally to start the programme. Unfortunately, I was too young to do the recce last year, you have to be 18 to drive on the roads in France – I was only 17. I've heard all the stories about Monte, about the changing road conditions and things like that. I think one of the hardest things will be the first time I come across a patch of ice when we're on slick racing tyres. I will have to slow to virtually walking pace, there'll be no grip at all. Pyschologically, that's quite tough – you have to keep telling yourself that everybody else is doing the same thing. The minute you try to push a bit harder on the ice, you're likely to go off the road. It's going to be very different to the events I've done before, but right now I just can't wait to get started.”
“Since I started rallying in 1998, I've been aiming for a drive like this. To be part of the Stobart VK M-sport Ford Rally Team on what is probably the most famous rally in the world is fantastic for me. Having driven in the Belgian Championship for so long, I have a lot of experience of asphalt rallies. Some of those events, such as Condroz, are run in wintry conditions similar to Monte Carlo, but it's still going to be a very big challenge for me to take on the best rally drivers around on round one.”
Malcolm Wilson, Stobart VK M-sport Ford Rally team principal
“The most important thing for Matthew to do on this opening round is get to the finish. This is a rally which strikes fear into all the drivers. There are so many unknowns about it: will there be ice in the braking point here? Will the snow have melted there? It's a real difficult one. Matthew's got a very sensible head on his shoulders, he knows what he's got to do. That's from a team principal's perspective. From a father's perspective, obviously I'm tremendously proud of what he's achieved in such a short space of time."
Press Release Stobart Motorsport