Australia : Stobart M-Sport Ford - Preview
Britain's leading World Rally Championship driver, 19-year-old Matthew Wilson, will continue his high-speed education of the most challenging roads on the globe with next week's Telstra Rally Australia.
Wilson has hit the
headlines this season, with a string of consistent finishes in his Ford Focus RS WRC, backed by British transport giant Stobart. The Cumbrian is in the first season of his multi-year deal to drive for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team, and this year is all about him and co-driver Michael Orr gaining as much WRC experience as possible.
Wilson has demonstrated the extraordinary pace and sure-footedness usually only found in a driver who's been on the stages a decade or more. Wilson has been competing for just over two years.
As has been the case with all-but one of this year's WRC rounds (Rally Great Britain), this will be Wilson's debut in Australia. The highlight of his season, to date, was when he re-wrote the record books in Argentina, becoming the youngest driver ever to score a WRC point, by clinching eighth overall, and becoming the youngest driver ever to score a fastest time on a WRC stage. He set that fastest time in order to beat his team-mate Luis Perez Companc in his own backyard.
Companc is back for next week's Rally Australia, where the two will renew the kind of fierce, but friendly rivalry they have enjoyed this season.
Both drivers will tackle the Antipodean event in the latest-specification Ford Focus RS WRC 06s.
"This is a rally everybody knows about. And the thing they all seem to know about is the road surface. It's among the hardest to drive in the championship, particularly if you're first on the road. The trouble with being first on the road is that there are no braking marks from anyone ahead of you. If there's a particularly tricky corner, maybe one which tightens up a bit more than expected, then you're going to be the one to find it. So, okay, we know about that and I'm going to have to go that bit harder on leg one to try and avoid being first on Saturday and Sunday.
ďAs for the car, I can't wait to get back behind the wheel of the Focus RS WRC 06. It's a sensational rally car, just amazing. The only thing which isn't ideal is the shakedown stage - it's at Gloucester Park this year, which is a trotting track and absolutely nothing like the stages we'll encounter for the rest of the event."
Luis Perez Companc
"This is going to be all new to me, I've never done Rally Australia before. I have seen pictures of the stages, so I understand a little bit about what to expect - but not too much. The one thing I do know a little bit about this week, is the car. I drove the Focus RS WRC 06 for the first time on Rally Japan at the start of September and absolutely loved it. The old Focus really wasn't a bad car, but the new one is better. It gives you so much confidence and power from the drivers' seat."
Malcolm Wilson, Team Principal
"We've all seen in the past just what a tough event Australia can be - this year will be no different. Coming in the southern hemisphere's summer, I would expect it to be hot, which will make the road surface even more tricky. It's good to have Matthew and Luis back in the 2006 cars - as [BP Ford World Rally Team driver] Marcus Gronholm
's win on last week's Rally of Turkey showed, the Focus RS WRC 06 is an amazing machine."
Press release Stobart M-Sport Ford