Galli slides into podium spot for Stobart
A day of mixed fortunes for the Stobart VK M–Sport Ford rally team has left both its blue and green liveried cars inside the top–five at this weekend’s Uddeholm Swedish Rally, round two of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Gigi Galli/Giovanni Bernacchini are poised for the team’s first podium in 2008 as they sit comfortably in third just 46.1 seconds off second placed BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver Mikko Hirvonen after a day of faultless competition by the Italian pair.

Team–mates Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin advanced two spots on their overnight position to impress in fifth position. Consistency and an increased pace over the day rewarded the young Briton as he sets up for his best ever snow–rally result.

Stobart’s second nominated point scoring crew Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud were not so fortunate however as their super run came to an end on today’s third stage when they ran into a safety barrier after getting too sideways on a fast left–hand corner. As a result the pair stopped just two kilometres from the end of the stage with extensive damage to the front end of their Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC07.

The Norwegian was on a flyer and in a big fight for second place before the incident which has seen an unfortunate end to what is essentially his ‘home’ event. Solberg is due to restart tomorrow under SupeRally regulations with healthy manufacturer points still on offer.

Over 100 competitive kilometres took crews over five special stages today which were split into two identical loops by a remote service in the town of Hagfors. Today also played host to the longest stage of the event Vagásen at 24.63 kilometres.

Unlike yesterday day 2 stages were held at a far lower altitude and as a result snow and ice levels were down with surprisingly mild temperatures. So bad were conditions stage 12 was cancelled by organisers as it became almost 100 percent gravel.

Galli’s display of consistency has rewarded him with an extremely likely chance of stepping onto a WRC podium for the first time with his new Stobart team. Still very much familiarising himself with the car and team, it will be a fine achievement if the Italian can maintain his position to the finish podium tomorrow afternoon.

Twenty–one–year–old Wilson won a fierce battle with Ford driver Andreas Mikkelsen today as the pair resume proceedings tomorrow with just 10.5 seconds between them. Despite being slightly un–eased by patches of exposed gravel and mud on the stages Britain’s only full–time WRC contender rose to the challenge and now has just six stages between him and his first points result of the year.

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Team Driver Gigi Galli said:
"We are very pleased with the speed here. After Henning went off things changed and we tried to just keep our position. Malcolm [Wilson] advised me to keep the pace under control and to keep the position. It is important for us to keep this position on the podium so there will be three Fords on the podium tomorrow. The car feels really good and is comfortable in the stages. It is good to come back with the speed on snow after being away for such a long break."

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
"I am very disappointed with what has happened today we just made a small mistake and got caught out on the exit of a fast corner. I know the Stobart mechanics will work hard tonight to repair the car for tomorrow and hopefully we can still collect some points. This was the event that I needed to try hard on and it’s a shame this has happened especially for all the Norwegian fans who have come to watch."

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
"Andreas [Mikkelsen] has been pushing me very hard today and we lost some time to him this morning but we have managed it well and we made up the pace a bit this afternoon to keep ahead of him. It’s been great to get up into fifth and enjoy ourselves on some difficult stages. We have settled into a really good pace here and hopefully we can continue this way to the end of the rally."

Stobart VK M–Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
"It has been another great day as the Stobart team still remain on the podium with Gigi [Galli] in third. It hasn’t been the best day for Henning [Solberg] as this event means a lot to him and I know he is very disappointed. Hopefully we can get him back out tomorrow as it means quite a few more points for the team. Matthew [Wilson] has had a good day also and is now up to fifth and is coping well with probably the most difficult Swedish Rally conditions we have seen in a while."

Leaderboard after Day 2
1. J–M Latvala/M Anttila 2h03m53.7sec
2. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen +49.8s
3. G Galli/G Bernacchini +1m35.9s
4. P Solberg/P Mills +2m40.9s
5. M Wilson/S Martin +4m37.6s
6. A Mikkelsen/O Floene +4m48.1s
7. D Sordo/M Marti +6m51.9s
8. T Gardemeister/T Tuominen +8m49.3s
9. J Hanninen/M Markkul +8m52.7s
10. J Ketomaa/M Teiskonen +10m00.8s
18. H Solberg/C Menkerud +16m02.7s

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