Rock strewn stages stumps Stobart in Argentina
Day two of Rally Argentina has proven to be one of the most unpleasant in the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team’s history. All three crews retired from the leg on one of the most treacherous days the FIA World Rally Championship has seen in recent years. Despite their retirement today, Italian’s Gigi Galli/Giovanni Bernacchini are currently in a good position to score two valuable manufacturer points for the team.

Galli was the first casualty damaging the exhaust on his Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC07 in the rocky conditions on stage 13. This caused a small fire forcing smoke into the cockpit losing him precious seconds over the last 10 kilometres of the test.

At closer inspection the exhaust damage had caused additional issues with the car and despite a colossal effort by Stobart mechanics to fix them, the official time limit was reached and the crew were forced to retire and will SupeRally tomorrow.

Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud cruised through this morning’s stages working on their pacenotes after retiring from day 1 and restarting this morning in 29th position. A team decision was then made to retire his Focus RS from the day in an effort to preserve the car for Rally Jordan where Solberg will again score manufacturer points for the Stobart squad.

The Norwegian will however SupeRally and compete tomorrow in an effort to cover, at least once, all the stages of Rally Argentina as the event is currently set on next year’s WRC calendar.

Brits Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin firstly succumbed to a similar exhaust problem to Galli but were fortunate enough to make it out of mid-day service with the help of their mechanics, losing just one minute 20 seconds in penalties after leaving service eight minutes late.

The 21-year-old was unfortunately not so lucky when he re-entered the afternoon loop of stages, retiring less than one kilometre from the end of stage 15 with a broken track control arm. Like his team-mates the Englishman will also SupeRally tomorrow’s final day in an effort to gain maximum experience for next year’s event.

Teams began entering Service C at 06:10 this morning ahead of the longest leg of Rally Argentina. The eight special stages took crews over a more sandy surface which proved quite slippery with light drizzles constantly falling. The ninth and final stage of the day saw the second running of the Estadio Córdoba super special in Córdoba city.

Tomorrow will take crews to the east of Córdoba for the final 43 kilometres of Rally Argentina 2008. The day will see a pass over the famous Mina Clavero and El Condor tests before proceedings are wrapped up with a final pass over Estadio Córdoba.

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Gigi Galli said:
“I am disappointed with what has happened today but in rallying anything can happen. My mechanics did a fantastic job trying so hard to fix the car before time ran out so I must say thank you to them all. With 10 kilometres to go in stage 13 the car started filling up with smoke and I could not see very much so had to slow down a bit. We found the problem in service but unfortunately the heat from the exhaust problem damaged the main wiring loom and it was impossible to fix in the allocated time limit. The stages were very fast and this morning I had trouble finding a good rhythm as they were quite different to what we experienced yesterday. I am disappointed we couldn’t stay out there today and give the fans a good show but we will be back tomorrow to compete on some of the most famous stages in the WRC.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
“It was unfortunate we had to retire yesterday but it has given me a chance to work on my pacenotes today and get more experience of this rally which I have only done twice before. The plan was to get through the stages with no problems and we have done this so I am happy. We made a decision with the team to retire for the afternoon stages to keep the car in the best condition but we will be back tomorrow to finish the only two stages of the rally we have not completed yet. The next rally is also on gravel so this extra time in the car will help with our preparation for Jordan.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
“It has been one of those days and I’m just really disappointed because things were looking good and my mechanics did an awesome job to get us back out this afternoon after the problems in the morning. On the first stage today we hit a huge rock on a right-hand bend which cracked the windscreen. The impact must have moved the exhaust slightly because it started to rub against the tunnel sending smoke into the cockpit and it also affected the prop-shaft. The guys got us back out before the time limit was up but then on the final corner of stage 15 we broke the TCA and unfortunately had to retire for the day. We will be back tomorrow to get some experience for next year and a few more miles on gravel before heading to Jordan.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“This has certainly been the most difficult day in the history of the Stobart team in some treacherous conditions. Gigi is still set to score points for the team which is a positive and all three guys will be back tomorrow under SupeRally regulations. It will be important for them all to set out tomorrow and finish the final kilometres of the event as the experience is crucial with the rally included in the WRC calendar next year.”

Results after day two
1. Loeb / Elena 3h 28m 16.5s
2. Solberg / Mills +1m 19.6s
3. Atkinson / Prevot +2m 08.5s
4. Sordo / Marti +3m 32.3s
5. Rautenbach / Senior +18m 00.1s
6. Hirvonen / Lehtinen+24m 44.5s
7. Aigner / Wicha +25m 27.2s
8. Villlagra / Perez Companc +25m 53.4s
9. Al-Attiyah / Patterson +26m 18.3s
10. Beltran / Rojas +26m 33.9s

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