Stobart steady the ship at Monte
Both nominated point scoring drivers have continued day 2 of Rallye Monte–Carlo in a positive manor by retaining their overnight positions to give the Stobart VK M–Sport Ford rally team a strong overall place in this opening round of the 2008 FIA World Rally Championship.

Belgium’s Francois Duval/Eddy Chevailler continued in a fight for fourth to finish the day just 14 seconds behind in fifth. The pair opted to take another cautious approach as they again looked to fine–tune their Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC07 which had improved well with some overnight setup changes.

Despite a power steering problem midway through stage 7, losing them over a minute, Gigi Galli/Giovanni Bernacchini battled on through the final stage to hold onto their seventh position. They will now head into day 3 with a comfortable cushion over eighth placed Jean–Marie Cuoq.

Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud improved greatly on their overnight position by leaping from 14th to tenth with an impressive sixth fastest stage time on the second pass of the 16.3 kilometre Burzet – Lachamp Raphael test.

Brits Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin also continued on an upward path to finish the day in 12th, advancing one place from their day 1 position. The only trouble for the 20–year–old came on the opening test when he slammed into a large rock luckily not puncturing his new Pirelli PZero tyre.

Today’s action took crews over 117 kilometres of competitive mileage comprising of three special stages run twice–over. After treacherous conditions last night, which saw heavy patches of ice, this morning was less concerning for competitors; however melted ice left sections of the roads damp and slippery.

A lengthy liaison guided crews west of Rally HQ for the first loop of three stages this morning. St Pierreville – Col De La Fayolle, at 29.52 kilometres in length, is the longest stage of the event and kicked things off as crews headed out from seven o’clock this morning.

Average temperatures hovered around the 5 degree mark today as clear skies treated competitors who raced through the picturesque landscape of the Ardeche region. Early morning fog looked to threaten on the opening stage but, fortunately for crews, clouding cleared before the start.

Tomorrow will see much the same format as today with three repeated stages offering competitors 133 kilometres of competitive action north west of Rally HQ in Valence. Following this, all team personnel head to Monaco to camp out for Sunday’s final day of competition through the Alpes Maritimes region.

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Team Driver Gigi Galli said:
"We have learnt a lot today and I really love this car. I feel like I’m starting to get used to it and the feeling is now more comfortable. We improved a lot on the second pass today but there are still damp patches on the road meaning things are still a bit slippery. We lost some time with the power steering problem but we have also got more used to the tyres and they are feeling better now. There are so many spectators which makes it exciting but I’m still concentrating on getting to the finish."

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Team Driver Francois Duval said:
"The car is feeling much better today with the tyres, brakes and also the pacenotes. The feeling I have is good so today has been very productive and you can see this with my second fastest stage time. I enjoyed the stages today and things in the car are working well. The changes we made to the car last night helped a lot today."

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
"Today has been quite confident for me and I am learning more every corner. I have never been a tarmac expert but for sure the feeling is getting better. Everything went well today with no mistakes and this is the most important thing for me. I like the new Pirelli tyres and am starting to get used to the feeling on them. OK we still need to work hard to see what they can do but I don’t want to do anything stupid so I’ll just take things steady."

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
"Today has gone well for us but the difference in temperature was very noticeable on the last stage tonight as it was getting colder and becoming slipperier and also darker so this obviously made conditions quite tricky. Apart from that there were no dramas but I am concentrating on being careful and not clipping anything on the side of the road. Now the tyres have no mousse, this is very important."

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"It has been a solid second day for the team and really there have been no major problems, except Gigi’s small issue with the power steering. But he still managed to maintain his overall position and stay within the points. We have still kept our overnight positions with both nominated crews in the points which is very promising. The road conditions have been better here than we all expected and it has made things easier for our guys; especially as it’s their first event in the car."

Leaderboard after Day 2
1. S Loeb/D Elena 1h36m44.9sec
2. D Sordo/M Marti +56.6sec
3. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen +1m22.8sec
4. C Atkinson/S Prevot +2m28.6sec
5. F Duval/E Chevailler +2m42.6sec
6. P Solberg/P Mills +3m09.6sec
7. G Galli/G Bernacchini +5m21.1sec
8. J Cuoq/P Janvier +5m27.9sec
9. J Latvala/M Anttila +6m55.8sec
10. H Solberg/C Menkerud +6m58.7sec
12. M Wilson/S Martin +7m43.2sec

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