Latvala’s perfect podium launches Stobart ahead in Ireland
FIA World Rally Championship

Rally Ireland, 15–18 November 2007

Final Report

The Stobart VK M–Sport Ford rally team have moved up to occupy third place in the FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers thanks to Jari–Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila’s magnificent third place at this weekend’s penultimate championship round, Rally Ireland. This result has given Stobart an amazing two podium places in as many events, another milestone in the team’s short career.

Team–mates Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr have shown a consistent pace throughout the event bringing it home in the points for the second consecutive rally with a well earned seventh place. After retiring from day 1 Henning Solberg and substitute co–driver for this event, Göran Bergsten, finished up 16th and more importantly, sixth in the manufacturer standings.

With a heavy weight on its shoulders to deliver a world class event, Rally Ireland has shone and delivered a package that has been more than fit for WRC status. The general consensus among teams is that the event has been one of the most challenging across the board in recent years.

Conditions all weekend have been unbelievably treacherous here with many crews using a semi–gravel setup to combat the huge amount of mud and sludge that has been washed onto the roads caused by heavy rain and competitors taking massive cuts through the corners.

Latvala’s performance here has been nothing short of superb. Although he has led three WRC events already this year the Finn has never been on the podium until now, so collecting his first WRC career podium today was just reward for his strong performances throughout this season.

Over the three days the 22–year–old set a multitude of top–three stage times including two stage wins to add to his tally. The only issue for him on this event was an almost rally ending mistake when he slid off the road and into a soft grassy field; fortunately spectators responded quickly and were able to help him back on the road. This result now moves the Finn up to seventh in the drivers’ championship.

Cumbrian rally star Wilson has been rewarded this weekend with his third points finish of the year and second in as many events. The youngster has impressed with a string of top–ten stage times over the weekend as his performances on the WRC continue to improve.

Wilson’s on–event preparation has been ultra–dedicated and this has shown in his overall result. Since arriving on Monday both Wilson and co–driver Orr have stuck to a strict training schedule waking up at 05:30 every morning for a visit to the hotel gymnasium before taking to the stages.

Sixth place was the highest running position Solberg has ever experienced on tarmac when he took the place on stage 4 on Friday. The Norwegian is yet to score a point on tarmac and things were looking very positive until the second run of that test when an impact with a rock on the apex of a medium corner spat him across the road and down an embankment.

Fortunately his Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC06 was able to re–enter day 2 under SupeRally regulations and, as a result, Solberg was able to score three manufacturer points for his team despite finishing 16th overall. Before his retirement Solberg was consistently setting stage times inside the top–six, a tremendous achievement for a man who took part in his first ever tarmac rally no more than ten months ago.

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Jari–Matti Latvala said:
"It’s an amazing feeling to be on the podium especially on a tarmac rally. I have tried so hard all year and this result has given me a massive boost. I have come very close before, most recently in Japan, but to get this result here has more than made up for it. The conditions were so difficult here and I knew before the rally that it was going to be a hard one but I have driven sensibly and it has been a very strong performance from both myself and Miikka. Now I am looking forward to Rally GB where we will be back on gravel; we had a great result on this rally last year so hopefully we can repeat this again."

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
"It is a fantastic feeling to get to the end of this rally which has been a real race of attrition. Some of my times over the weekend could have been better but when things were working well I posted some good times. It was such a difficult event and I was always concentrating on getting to the finish and not making any major mistakes; and its mega to claim more driver points. The last stage of the rally was amazing and the organisers need to be congratulated for an overall excellent event."

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
"This has been a difficult weekend for me but to claim some manufacturer points and help move the team up to third makes it worthwhile. We struggled in the muddy conditions but when the grip was constant I actually set some pretty good times and this has probably been my best feeling with the car on tarmac. Göran has done a fantastic job here but after my mistake on Friday we were really just cruising to the finish. This is my third new event in a row and I have scored manufacturer points on all three so I’m happy with this achievement."

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Rally Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"This is the best ever result for a Stobart car and a dominating performance by Jari on tarmac. He approached this rally in a meticulous manner and never lost his focus on the extremely demanding stages. It’s also impressive for the team to move into third place in the manufacturers’ championship, the Stobart team are now a force to be reckoned with and to have two Ford teams in the top three places demonstrates how the Stobart crews have backed up the BP–Ford team all year. Matthew has also impressed me and has again scored more driver points on an event where many other experienced drivers made mistakes."

Stobart Group CEO Andrew Tinkler said:
"It has been a fantastic weekend for the team and the way that all three drivers have performed on this difficult event has been amazing. Jari has shown great potential this year, especially on tarmac, and Matthew has clocked up another great result after his fourth place in Japan. To move ahead of Subaru in the manufacturers’ championship is a great credit to the team and the guys are all fired up for Rally GB to try and maintain this lead. To see a Stobart car on the podium is a great achievement and Jari must be congratulated for his determination and performance on this event."

Final Result
1. S Loeb/D Elena 3h 31m09.2sec
2. D Sordo/M Marti +53.4sec
3. J M Latvala/M Anttila +1m48.2sec
4. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen +2m17.7sec
5. P Solberg/P Mills +2m55.8sec
6. G Wilks/P Pugh +5m57.9sec
7. M Wilson/M Orr +10m04.9sec
8. G MacHale/A Harryman +11m08.3sec
9. A Mikkelsen/O Floene +13m08.2sec
10. N McShea/M Clarke +16m32.1sec
16. H Solberg/G Bergsten +20m59.2sec

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