Tough opener for Stobarts in Germany
FIA World Rally Championship

ADAC Rallye Deutschland, 17–19 August 2007

Leg 1 Report
It has been a tough start for the Stobart VK M–Sport Ford rally team on the opening leg of ADAC Rallye Deutschland, round ten of the FIA World Rally Championship. Finns Jari–Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila kept things steady to finish the day in eighth position after a slowish start to the event which had them in 12th spot after the opening test.

Fellow team–mates and nominated points–scoring crew Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud were not so lucky, retiring from the leg with suspension damage on stage 5. Third Stobart crew, Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr, used the day to re–familiarise themselves with tarmac rallying, finishing in eleventh position almost three minutes clear of their closest challenger.

Today’s 128.6 kilometres of asphalt action took crews through some of the most picturesque rally stages in the WRC. The six special stages ran north east of Rallye Deutschland’s Trier headquarters, through local vineyards and alongside the famous Moselle River.

As in previous years weather conditions here played havoc on accurate tyre choices with a mix of blue skies, sunshine and torrential downpours. With the chance of showers in the afternoon several teams opted to run with a softer compound BFGoodrich g–Force Profiler tyre but with the rain holding back the hard compound slick proved to be the most beneficial option.

For competitors running slightly down the order, today was a battle of judgement as the roads began to be covered in mud and dirt, dragged onto the surface by front–running competitors. The worst effected areas were in the narrow sections under trees which left moist patches, catching out several drivers throughout the day.

Solberg’s incident occurred 2.3 kilometres into the second pass of Grafschaft Veldenz when an impact under braking damaged the suspension of his Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC06 to a point where he could continue no further. Prior to this, after some small setup changes during service, the Norwegian was improving on his stage times but still finding it difficult to adapt on his first outing to this event.

Twenty–two–year–old Latvala used the first stage to re–issue his confidence on the sealed surface and from then on was improving steadily throughout the leg to finish in the final points–scoring position. He was lucky to finish the day, however, after an excursion with some loose gravel on the final test spat him off the road but fortunately his Focus RS bounced right back online and was able to sail home with only minimal seconds lost.

British–born Wilson had a solid day but didn’t quite find his ultimate confidence today due to a few small mistakes and moments throughout. With the 20–year–old running 13th on the road, mud over the racing surface became a separate obstacle and caused the youngster to have a couple of small spins during the day. On the 23.04 kilometre second stage, he had a big moment when an ambitious cut bounced his Focus RS onto two wheels nearly flipping it over. A close call for Wilson on just his second attempt at this unpredictable asphalt event.

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
"We made some suspension changes in service today and they really improved my feeling with the car on stage 4 and my confidence was much higher. Then on stage 5 we were braking for a slow corner quite close to the start of the stage and there was a small bang and immediately I knew we had damaged the front suspension. I am really disappointed as it means we have lost some mileage on tarmac but hopefully we can re–start tomorrow with the same pace as this afternoon. I set some good times today though and I was very pleased with the changes we made during the service today. Tomorrow I will concentrate again as I still think points are possible here."

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Jari–Matti Latvala said:
"My tyre choice today has been perfect and my pace has been steadily improving. We had a small scare this afternoon when I took a cut in a corner and the car skipped out across the road and we hit the back wheel on a curb but it all looks ok and we haven’t really done any damage. When the road is clean then everything feels really good but in slippery sections I’m being very careful as I’m not too sure exactly how hard to push, how late to brake and how quickly to take the cuts. This is where experience comes into it and this is where I know I can improve my driving."

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
"My notes have been working well today and the plan for tomorrow is to maintain the same pace. We had a half spin this morning and lost a few seconds but apart from that it’s been a good day and the car felt really good this afternoon. Maybe our tyre choice for this afternoon was not quite perfect but cuts in stages had dried up and I was starting to feel more comfortable with the car and the conditions. Things are looking good for tomorrow, it should remain dry and the settings we have found now should work really well on tomorrow’s stages."

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Rally Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"Jari–Matti has done exactly as we hoped today. After his problems in Finland he has done a good job, he has put in a good performance and he is sitting strong in the points and hopefully tomorrow he can continue to do a good job. Matt has also had a very sensible day. He has stayed out of trouble and is just outside the top–ten. If he can carry on at this pace tomorrow and continue to experience all the mileage, again it will be good work by him. Henning was going well today until his problem and he was increasing his pace after making some changes to the car at service. Hopefully tomorrow he can do the same job and get these crucial asphalt miles in."

Leaderboard after Leg 1
1. F Duval/P Pivato 1h 14m 10.9sec
2. S Loeb/D Elena +1.3sec
3. M Gronholm/T Rautiainen +17.4sec
4. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen +27.7sec
5. T Gardemeister/J Hakanen +1m04.2sec
6. J Kopecky/F Schovanek +1m26.6sec
7. X Pons/X Amigo +1m37.2sec
8. J–M Latvala/M Anttila +1m40.7sec
9. P Solberg/P Mills +1m50.7sec
10. M Stohl/I Minor +2m10.3sec
11. M Wilson/M Orr +4m12.6sec
25. H Solberg/C Menkerud +11m47.8sec

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