Latvala keeps Stobart in positive points position
FIA World Rally Championship

ADAC Rallye Deutschland, 17–19 August 2007

Leg 2 Report

Jari–Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila have fought through a tough second leg of the ADAC Rallye Deutschland to be in a strong manufacturer points scoring position for the Stobart VK M–Sport Ford rally team.

Team–mates Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr showed good speed today maintaining a top–ten position for the majority of the leg until the final stage where they narrowly slipped back to eleventh. Unfortunately for Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud it just hasn’t been a successful opening Rally Germany bid as they retired for the second time in as many days with broken suspension.

Today’s leg was a lengthy 164.86 kilometres of competitive distance made up through eight classic stages in the famous Baumholder military region. Based east of Rally HQ, stages included the traditional Panzerplatte test which at 30.55 kilometres in length is the event’s longest.

Unlike previous years, weather conditions were almost perfect with clear skies and a constant 20 degree air temperature which treated crews over the day. With showers yesterday however, patches of road, especially those surrounded by overhanging trees, were still damp which caught out several drivers as spins seemed to be on the time–loss agenda for leg 2.

With all of today’s rally action a reasonable distance from Trier, a remote service was put in place in Konken and visited twice by crews over the course of the day. Correct tyre choice was again critical, especially over the second loop of stages this afternoon, as several cuts became damagingly rough exposing several puncture–prone areas.

Solberg was improving on his pace all day and really starting to get used to the car on a tarmac surface on just his third ever asphalt event. Unfortunately on the penultimate test, Erzweiler, the Norwegian came unstuck when he hit a large rock with the right, rear wheel of his Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC06 breaking the suspension and immediately retiring him from leg 2. Solberg will restart tomorrow under SupeRally rules in a bid to claim the final available manufacturers’ point for his team.

Finnish youngster Latvala began his day extremely well with two top–six stage times on the opening two tests as he headed into the first remote service in seventh position. He kept this position through the next stage but on the final stage of this morning’s loop, Arena Panzerplatte, he encountered problems as he didn’t have time to check the tyre pressures before the start of the stage. This resulted in a loss of grip as well as valuable seconds. Unfortunately this dropped the 22–year–old down to ninth where he stayed for the remainder of the day but not without an extended battle with Xavier Pons who occupied the final drivers’ point scoring spot in eighth.

Wilson too began well and despite a small spin at a hairpin on stage 7 was very confident and happy with his correct tyre choice of BFGoodrich g–Force profiler tyre. On just his second attempt at Rally Germany the 20–year–old struggled with his pacenotes in sections which caused his confidence levels to vary throughout the morning. However, with another correct tyre choice and warm conditions during the afternoon loop of stages Wilson was able to regain more confidence and set some impressive stage times.

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
"This morning has been good and I’m trying to concentrate again after yesterday. We are still learning the car on asphalt. The surface in Panzerplatte was quite good for us, I think the cars before had cleaned the road surface a bit, there was still some gravel at the cuts but generally conditions were quite good. Again we tried some suspension changes at service for the second pass in the afternoon. On Erzweiler, I was coming out of a slow left–hand corner and the car went sideways on some loose gravel and we spun and hit the back right–hand wheel on a large rock and broke the suspension. This rally is so difficult and the surface changes so much that it makes it very difficult to learn how to drive on asphalt."

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Jari–Matti Latvala said:
"The tyres felt good but I did a small bit of damage to the car when I touched a bale on the inside of a fast right–hand corner. Then also on a slow corner I was a little to close to the inside and we touched a small stone wall with the wheel, I just changed the wheel to be on the safe side. Unfortunately on the last stage this morning I didn’t have enough time to check the tyre pressures and because of this the tyres heated up quite a lot and we had to drive very carefully for the last five kilometres of the last stage which lost us a bit of time. In Erzweiler this afternoon conditions were quite good and our splits showed that we were going well but in Panzerplatte we lost grip with the tyres after 20 kilometres, I think I was driving a bit too aggressively for the conditions, the roads in Baumholder are very abrasive."

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
"Our tyre choice was correct this morning but it was quite damp under trees so I had to be careful on these slippery sections. We lost a few seconds at the end of stage 7 with a small spin when the car snapped away on an open hairpin. Our notes were slightly too ambitious on stage 10 and it was an extremely difficult surface, much more slippery than I’d imagined. The second pass was much better though, we made some changes to our notes and they worked well; we were receiving excellent information from our safety crew which made it easier to push harder. We had a front right puncture which slowed us down with five kilometres to go on the second pass of Panzerplatte."

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Rally Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"This is proving to be a very difficult rally. All the drivers have said that experience of this event is crucial but they have learnt a lot today and especially about preserving tyres and staying out of trouble in Baumholder. The good thing is that both Jari and Henning can both finish in the points tomorrow and it would be good to see Matthew get back into the top–ten. His splits have been good today and he’s showed some good speed and a good performance on the stages."

Leaderboard after Leg 2
1. S Loeb/D Elena +2h 48m 40.4sec
2. M Gronholm/T Rautiainen +37.8sec
3. F Duval/P Pivato +50.4sec
4. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen +55.5sec
5. J Kopecky/F Schovanek +2m48.7sec
6. T Gardemeister/J Hakanen +2m51.4sec
7. P Solberg/P Mills +3m07.1sec
8. X Pons/X Amigo +4m16.4sec
9. J–M Latvala/M Anttila +4m53.8sec
10. C Atkinson/S Prevot +8m50.9sec
11. M Wilson/M Orr +9m03.8sec
19. H Solberg/C Menkerud +25m14.5sec

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