Flying Finns wave Stobart flag into fourth
FIA World Rally Championship

Rallye de France Tour de Corse, 12-14 October 2007

Leg 2 Report

Finns Jari–Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila head into tomorrow’s final leg of Rallye de France – Tour de Corse in an amazing fourth place after FranÁois Duval retired from today’s leg on the final road section. This 13th round of the FIA World Rally Championship is proving to be a fantastic show as battles rage on throughout the leaderboard.

Team–mates Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud move up one place on their overnight position into ninth after a prosperous day for the Norwegian pair, while Brits Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr move up two spots to eleventh after a more confident–filled day of rallying.

Leg 2 became another day of warfare between several WRC competitors throughout the leaderboard. The topic for today was grip as crews opting to run a hard compound BF Goodrich g–Force tyre over the morning’s loop benefited from the hot temperatures in the mountains.

The high temperatures, however, meant a hot surface which played havoc on many brake systems of several teams’ world rally cars, leaving drivers with little or no feeling with their brakes. Stages today took competitors in a different direction from leg 1 as they trekked north of Ajaccio to wrestle 123 kilometres of special stage action.

The surface was far more abrasive over this leg with a lot more narrow and twisty sections taking crews to the highest point of the rally when they hit the 920 metre mark on the 21.88 kilometre Carbuccia – Scalella test. Fortunately, spectators today stuck firmly to the guidelines allowing all stages to run smoothly and on time.

Starting to create a trend, Latvala has again impressed his fellow WRC competitors moving to fourth on the leaderboard after a superb day’s driving. The 22–year–old’s combination of correct tyre choice and consistently quick stage times saw him win a fierce battle with Petter Solberg today, leaving him and his Stobart team in a prime points position for tomorrow’s competition.

It’s been another top day of learning for Solberg, continually improving on his pace as the day went on. Among his performance were some well driven top–ten stage times but he admits he still has a long way to come on the tarmac surface. The Norwegian’s only minor problem was a cracked windscreen acquired on the first stage after service when he had a heavy compression impact.

With some positive progress in suspension setup last night, Wilson was a far more confident man today even on narrower roads which he thought might have troubled him. The 20–year–old showed more improvement after lunchtime service posting some quick times in the afternoon loop of stages to be rewarded with his shift up to eleventh on the leaderboard, just 6.6 seconds behind a top–ten spot.

Watching the team perform today were Andrew Tinkler, CEO, and William Stobart, COO of Stobart Group. The team owners were impressed with what they saw and the noted improvements and consistency of all three crews.

Tomorrow’s final leg of Rallye de France will be a decisive one, taking crews back to the mountainous Alta Rocca region for the remaining 112 kilometres of competitive tests. Four stages will be run, split up by a 30 minute service, as this leg takes drivers over the monster Pont de Calzola – Agosta stage, which at 31.8 kilometres is the longest of the event.

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
"It has been another learning day for me here and these difficult stages make it very hard to learn; but I am here, still inside the top–ten and still scoring two points. We adjusted the ride height of the car during service today and that really improved things. I do like these stages here and I’m happy to not have made any mistakes; the only way I will learn about this surface is to complete the stages. If I do a mistake then this won’t happen. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, the roads are wider and it’s a cleaner surface, I think this will be better for me.

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Jari–Matti Latvala said:
"Today has been fantastic for me and to move up two places is a really good feeling. It’s a shame for Duval to have stopped tonight but this is rallying and sometimes it gives you bad luck. Today I have been concentrating on driving fast and not making any mistakes and this has worked well. We have been faster than Petter [Solberg] on most stages and tomorrow I will be concentrating on keeping him behind me. I have been trying not to take any risks as I know this rally can easily catch you out. It should be good for me tomorrow, the roads are wider and clean, and this is the surface I prefer and am more confident on; hopefully I will be able to maintain my fourth position."

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
"Today has been quite good and this afternoon’s stages have been a definite improvement on yesterday. Our tyre choice was perfect, a slight compromise as we went for a slightly softer compound to everyone else but it worked well and now we have a healthy selection for tomorrow. We are very close to [Andreas] Mikkelsen now and hopefully we may be able to get that position back tomorrow. The roads tomorrow and wider and smoother which are better and I enjoy them more; I have more confidence and find it easier to concentrate on driving cleaner and maintaining a better speed."

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Rally Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"It has been another great day for the Stobart team. Jari–Matti has now moved into an amazing fourth place and it really has been a superb performance from him today, if he maintains a similar pace tomorrow then he can certainly hang onto fourth position which will be a fantastic result. Both Henning and Matthew’s times have improved during today and all three cars have run faultlessly. The guys have all done a solid job and haven’t made any mistakes or put a wheel wrong."

Stobart Group CEO Andrew Tinkler said:
"Jari–Matti’s consistency has really impressed me today. Asphalt isn’t his preferred surface but since Germany he has improved quite a bit and is now chasing for third and fourth fastest times. He seems to be able to handle the pressure better now and things are definitely looking good for the end of the year and a strong finish to our manufacturer battle. Matthew’s split times on this event have also been very consistent and it’s a good base for him to build upon in the future."

Leg 2 Leaderboard
1. S Loeb/D Elena 2h 20m 58.6sec
2. M Gronholm/T Rautiainen +27.5sec
3. D Sordo/M Marti +1m00.6sec
4. J–M Latvala/M Anttila +2m23.9sec
5. P Solberg/P Mills +2m30.9sec
6. C Atkinson/S Prevot +2m49.3sec
7. X Pons/X Amigo +4m08.2sec
8. J Kopecky/F Schovanek +5m52.9sec
9. H Solberg/C Menkerud +7m07.6sec
10. A Mikkelsen/O Floene +7m56.1sec
11. M Wilson/M Orr +8m02.7sec

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