Sardinia : Stobart M-Sport Ford - Leg 1
From the highs of setting the fastest stage time in the last stage he drove in Rally Argentina, Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team driver Matthew Wilson experienced the opposite end of the rally spectrum as he crawled through the first
day of Rally d'Italia Sardegna due to suspension damage in the morning and then engine management difficulties in the afternoon.
Wilson was a mere kilometre into the 24km Terranova stage which opens the seventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship when contact with a rock damaged the rear left suspension upright on his Ford Focus RS WRC 05.
The M-Sport crew decided that Wilson should continue to run over the two remaining stages and 70km road section back to service, enabling the 19 year-old Cumbrian to run over the stages in the afternoon loop. Although Wilson's Focus had its suspension repaired Wilson's engine's Electronic Control Unit (ECU) seemed to have a problem on the second run through the same stage that blighted Wilson in the morning. As if that wasn't enough, Wilson then suffered a similar problem to that which team-mate Kosti Katajamaki had done in the morning as Wilson's fly-by-wire throttle motor failed later in the afternoon.
Kosti Katajamaki in the second Stobart Focus registered to score manufacturer points had a far better afternoon to Wilson and experienced a clean run through the treacherous sandy gravel stages to end up 13th in the overall standings.
After a solid run in the first stage of the day the Finn had suffered failure of his fly-by-wire throttle motor and he had to alternate between using the car's throttle emergency mode with its all-or-nothing power delivery and its road mode with significantly diminished power.
Luis Perez Companc in the team's third car had a trouble-free day when compared with his team-mates. Adopting a conservative approach Companc ended in 17th place in the overall standings.
Barry Clark in the Stobart VK Rally Team ended the first loop of the day as the first car in the Fiesta SportingTrophy International by over a minute and a half, but suffered a driveshaft failure 5km from the end of SS4. He will return to the rally with penalties for the second day.
Wilson did manage to complete the afternoon without drama and his time over that split of SS6 was just 8.3secs adrift of rally leader, Marcus Gronholm
. With a day full of difficulties Wilson has ended the first day of Rally d'Italia Sardegna, an event where he started with a minute of penalties due to having changed engine, in 76th position in the overall standings. Day two covers 137km of stage distance. Wilson has plenty of ground to make up.
"I don't know what happened on the first stage. We were less than a kilometre in and we went round a left hander and heard a bang, there must have been a rock in the road. It didn't sound like too big an impact but we thought we'd got a puncture from it. The mousse worked but the hub was damaged. We then didn't know if we'd make it to the service and the hardest part was the 70km road section. We've stopped on every stage today. In the afternoon's first stage we changed the ECU, then in the next one we had problems with the fly-by-wire linkage and we changed that to the cable mode. We made a repair to the linkage and we had a good run for 8km, and set a good split time, but then the fly-by-wire motor failed. I've never been last in a rally before, especially not by seven minutes!"
"It wasn't so easy on the first stage as it was very slippery and very difficult but I set a good time, it is four months since I've been in the car so it's quite exciting at the moment. I didn't push so hard on the first stage, the plan was to push harder on the next ones but the fly by wire throttle broke so we had to use the emergency mode and road mode with no turbo, that was very hard. In the afternoon the ruts were really bad, but it was easier with the throttle working."
Luis Perez Companc
"It's very tough out there, but it's the same for everyone. It's very slippery as well – too slippery for me, it's very dusty and very rough. As soon as you get on the gas the car pushes wide with understeer. It's been very dusty and we've had some problems but everything is okay, I'm very happy as it's a tough rally. Tomorrow will probably be worse, but that's rallying, you have to do it. I had no mechanical problems luckily and I finished the day."
"It's very hot, the hottest rally I've done. We had two overshoots on the first stage on a slippery tarmac section, I was put off by a spectator in the middle of the road and got distracted with my braking. The second stage didn't flow at all, it was very slow and twisty. On the third stage we caught the car in front, it was hard to concentrate on the pace notes with all the dust. The driveshaft braking in the fourth stage was more my bad luck than anything, we weren't really going that quick!"
Malcolm Wilson, Team Principal
"We decided to try to get Matthew to the first service as it would give him the opportunity to run the stages in the afternoon. We were on the radio letting him know when cars were coming up behind them so he would let them go through. The aim was just for him to trickle through then learn the stages in the afternoon. But you talk about character building; what an afternoon for Matthew! The one encouraging bit to come out was on the last stage, the first eight kilometres was the only time he had a clean run and in that split he was quicker than Kosti and nearly eight seconds up on Luis. I'm sure he will have learnt an awful lot from today. Luis has had no problems, which is good, and Kosti has driven quite well back in the car. Barry's pace this morning in the Fiesta was unbelievable."
Press release Stobart M-Sport Ford