Argentina : Stobart M-Sport Ford - Leg
The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team ended the first leg of Rally Argentina with both cars inside the overall top ten despite the tough and gruelling nature of the dusty rock strewn stages around Cordoba in central Argentina, with
19 year-old British driver Matthew Wilson 37 seconds ahead of team-mate and local favourite, Luis Perez Companc.
Both drivers put in stage times inside the top ten fastest and returned their cars to the service park at the end of the day relatively unscathed when compared with the battle damage sustained by some of their rivals. It was not a day without incident however, as Wilson endured a heavy landing from a jump and four punctures on the morning loop where even the mousse designed to stop damaged tyres from going flat was insufficient for the difficult conditions.
Bumper crowds lined the course cheering on Wilson and team-mate Luis Perez Companc who is the only Argentinean driver in a WRC car in this event and has previously finished in sixth overall. Despite his more experienced team-mate's local advantage it was Wilson, back on the gravel surface he currently favours, who had the advantage on day one to be the lead Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team car.
Friday's final stage proved to be Wilson's best. Despite struggling with damage inflicted poor handling, believed to be due to a broken anti-roll bar component, Wilson set the seventh fastest time over the 21km of the stage.
With Rally Argentina moved to earlier in the year than its previously slot on the FIA World Rally Championship calendar the weather was hotter than in previous years, although the blue skies of the rally build-up were replaced by overcast, humid and sticky conditions as the 160km of stage distance was tackled. The weather, allied to the bumpy course made for a tiring day for the competitors and Wilson, Companc and their co-drivers Michael Orr and Jose Maria Volta certainly earned their keep, ever mindful that they have a further two days of more of the same.
Leg two of Rally Argentina starts with a repeat of four of Friday's stages on Saturday morning before taking to faster sweeping stages in the afternoon.
“I think we had four punctures this morning. It was the second stage which really hurt us. Near the start there was a rock just over a crest. That gave us the first puncture, but the tyre stayed up. Then, half way through the stage, there was a massive rock in the line and I just hit it. That punctured the front and the rear so we had to swap things around. A tyre then went down on the road section, so we had to put a flat one back on, so on the last stage this morning with four punctures and no spare we were very careful. We were lucky with the jump, jeez it was close. We had 'crest, jump, right' but we took off and landed with half the car off the road and there was a massive rock sticking out of the grass and it hit the sill. We were lucky.
“The last stage of the day was very difficult, it felt like we had a broken anti roll bar but it just goes to show what you can do if you try and be neat and tidy, it certainly worked for us. Today was a real challenge, it's the longest day in rallying I've ever done, it feels like I've driven to the moon and back. It's a real achievement to be here.”
Luis Perez Companc
“The stages are very rough. The third stage was very twisty, with a lot of rocks, but it was no problem we just had to take it slowly and take care. Eight stages today and the car is in one piece, it's as strong as a tank. There's a lot of people cheering me on, and I'm grateful to them because it is good to see them, I'm very happy. The stadium start was incredible, there was a lot of people and it made it nervous for me. We wanted to finish the Leg today and as we've finished the leg we're in a good position. It's incredible, the people are everywhere, I have to give them a spectacle.”
Malcolm Wilson, Team Principal
“Both Matthew and Luis Perez drove well today, it's a good performance. For Luis it's his home event so obviously he wants to do well. For Matthew he's had a couple of hard rallies, and he needs to finish here. It's trying to get that balance right of enjoying yourself and trying to get to the end as well. It's a great position that he's in, but it's also a difficult position, but I'm really happy with his pace today and if he can keep that up for the rest of the rally I'm sure we'll have a good result. But we've seen what's happened today, it's a very hard rally and there's still two days to go. I think he'll like the fast and flowing stages tomorrow, that's the type of stage that he does tend to enjoy.”
Press release Stobart M-Sport Ford