Catalunya Rally: Stobart M-Sport Ford - Finish
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team driver Matthew Wilson ended his RallyRACC Catalunya-Costa Daurada early on the final day in Spain after a wheel parted company with his Ford Focus RS WRC05 with just two stages remaining in
the FIA World Rally Championship round.
Wilson was in sight of the stage finish on SS14, Pratdip 1, when the rear wheel came off, but a 40km road section before service meant that Wilson and co-driver Orr decided that it was better to have their car recovered to Parc Fermé under SupeRally regulations. A finishing position of eighth of the manufacturer entries gave a point in the championship.
The 19 year old Brit from Cumbria had viewed the event as one to gain experience and he achieved his aim of completing all the stages used, only missing out on the repeat of the final two stages in the final loop of the rally. Until his retirement Wilson drove without major incident in sight of the top ten in the overall standings. He worked with co-driver Michael Orr on refining their pace notes during the three day event for a return to Spain next season.
As well as being the first time he had driven in Spain, it was the first time too that Wilson had driven a WRC car in full tarmac specification with the ride height set low and the suspension very stiff to make the most of the grip levels provided by the BF Goodrich tyres.
Despite the setup, the tactic on many stages in Spain is to cut corners and drive over the gravel and rocks that line the road; another skill for Wilson to learn and refine.
Team-mates for Wilson in Spain were the Finnish crew of Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila who put in an impressive performance despite retiring from the rally on the first day after making contact with a bridge. After returning to the rally under SupeRally, Latvala posted times inside the top ten and was classified one place down on Wilson's 15th in the final overall standings.
Boss of the VK brand that appears on Wilson's Focus, Steve Perez, competed in his first WRC event outside the UK. The 49 year-old, who has been previously crowned 'Entrepreneur of the Year,' had to make use of all his initiative on the complex stages and was ready for a well earned drink of his VK product at the end of the event.
Wilson and Orr now have one week before they head to Corsica in preparation for the next WRC event of the season, Rallye de France–Tour de Corse.
“It's a bit of a shame but that's rallying and these things happen, there's nothing you can do about it. It looks like there was a problem with the wheel studs or the wheel hasn't been torqued tight enough. It's nobody's fault, these things happen. It was 40km to service, we managed to get a police escort and try to get the car back but it would have done too much damage to the car and with Corsica in a week's time it would not have made much sense. It's always a shame to finish without completing the rally but we have driven every stage. Next time here it will be so much easier as we've driven the stages and we've got the notes.”
Michael Orr, co-driver
“It's just one of those things. There was a problem with the wheel or the studs. We thought something wasn't right on the first stage today. We swapped the wheels over after the stage but it came off at the end. There was nothing we could do about it really, it made no sense to drive the car back as it was just ten minutes penalty we'd get and we'd score a point, so it was better for the team that way.”
“I was very happy in the stages today, the car feels good. It's fast tarmac roads and I think my driving was better on these kind of roads than Saturday's. There were just two little moments we had, we would have had a better time had it not been for those. In the first stage this morning there was a flat left minus which I tried to take flat out. In a GpN car it is no problem going flat out, but this is faster and we started to slide and then hit the Armco. The second time I just braked too late and started to understeer, but I was able to come off the brakes and turn in, so no worries. Every day felt really good except for Friday afternoon when I hit the wall, but I have learnt things. It's better to learn without driving off the road, but sometimes it seems you need to do that also.”
“The stages were more flowing today, we did a lot better actually. I've learnt to trust the car and the tyres and let it slide around. You can't drive a rally like you drive a race track as there's just too many corners. A race track might have 12 corners, but one stage has probably got 300 corners and they're all different in character. For me if I've got the car sliding around a bit I've got more control of it, but it's been a big learning curve.”
Malcolm Wilson, Team Principal
“It's unfortunate that Matthew didn't finish the rally but that's rallying. It's happened before and it'll happen again. The important thing is his driven all the stages and filed them away for next time. It's a technical event so a good result would always have been difficult on his first time. Jari Matti did a good job when he stayed away from concrete bridges. It will be good to see how the cars go in Corsica.”
Press release Stobart M-Sport Ford