Tip-top Turkish tactics reward Stobart crews
All three Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team members have finished the opening day of Rally Turkey occupying positions inside the top-seven on round eight of the FIA World Rally Championship. Intelligent driving on the final stage today has left both the Stobart squad and its big brother, the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, in prime road positions for tomorrow’s leg.

Leading the way are Norwegians Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud who occupy an incredible second position just one second behind current leader Sebastien Loeb. With road sweeping duties required tomorrow the pair will be looking to go one better come Saturday evening. Closely following the Norwegians are Italians Gigi Galli/Giovanni Bernacchini who occupy fourth position just 2.2 seconds off the leader. As the team’s other nominated point scoring crew, things are now looking positive for both strong driver and manufacturer points’ hauls.

Bits Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin round off a great start for the Stobart side as they occupy seventh. Wilson’s top-10 fastest stage times on every test today have been the key to his positive performance and this was capped off with the 21-year-old’s third placed finish on the final test today.

Galli was on fire today setting three fastest stage times as he and his Stobart team continued to back-up the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team with four Fords in top-five spots after day 1. He was literally smoking this morning when his Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC07 caught fire at the rear when part of the back bumper began rubbing against the hot exhaust at the end of stage 2.

The time spent putting out the fire unfortunately meant one minute late check-in to the start of stage 3 and a 10 second penalty. The Italian also struck trouble at the end of stage 6 when he collided with the flying finish boards causing damage to the passenger side of his Focus RS. His Stobart mechanics, however, did a fabulous job in Service C replacing the co-driver’s side door for Galli to head out and post the fastest stage time on the following test.

Concerned for an alert of high water temperature towards the end of the 24.15 kilometre Myra 1 stage this morning, Solberg sensibly backed off, still managing to set the fourth fastest time over the test. The Norwegian also lost time on stage 6 with tyre wear issues but with a fresh pair of Pirelli Scorpion gravel tyres onboard for the final two stages this afternoon he was able to push hard and set some exceptional times. Solberg was also plagued with dust in his car after damaging the wheel arch and opening a hole into the cockpit of his Focus RS. Despite these dramas it still didn’t stop the Stobart driver from posting six top-five fastest stage times on his way to second place which included a fastest time on the final 22.4 kilometre Phaselis 1 test.

Wilson was the most fortunate of all three Stobart drivers but still incurred a niggling suspension issue on the final sections of stage 7. With the car slightly out of line due to the suspension trouble the youngster was cautious to creep his Focus RS back to service this afternoon where it was fully repaired for the final two stages.

Tomorrow sees seven stages totalling 137.66 kilometres of competitive action with another visit to the Antalya Super Special stage tomorrow night.

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Gigi Galli said:
“It’s been a long day today with more stages than what we are normally used to. We had a problem getting the jack into the car today and weren’t able to change the tyres between some stages. The second pass over the stages was quite hard as we had to find a good compromise between preserving the tyres and keeping a good speed but I think we did a good job. It seems that we are now in a perfect position for tomorrow.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
“It’s been a hard day as the stages have been tough and I have been in a battle for most of the day. We lost some time with our problem earlier and the dust getting into the car effected my concentration but it’s been a fantastic finish to the day getting a fastest stage time and moving up into second place just one second off the lead. The stages are not too bad and not cutting up as much as I thought they would on the second pass so this could be good for us tomorrow.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
“They have been really tough stages today and I have been feeling quite tired with my cold. We had a big impact just on the last stage there and I’ve definitely bent something in the suspension which cost us some time for sure. But we still managed to finish off the day with a third placed time which is a great way to finish what has been an improved day of driving. I’m very happy with our start today and the car is feeling really good.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“It’s been a mega day for the Stobart team and all three cars are in the top-seven and in the points. Henning and Gigi have both got fastest stage times today and I’m sure they will be pushing hard again tomorrow. Matthew has definitely put in his best performance to-date today and he has really impressed me. He has driven with his head, stayed out of trouble, put in some fast times and even managed to preserve his car on the tough stages today.”

Day 1 Leaderboard
1. S Loeb/D Elena 2h02m35.2s
2. H Solberg/C Menkerud +1.0s
3. J-M Latvala/M Anttila +1.1s
4. G Galli/G Bernacchini +2.2s
5. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen +6.9s
6. P Solberg/P Mills +49.1s
7. M Wilson/S Martin +1m05.9s
8. D Sordo/M Marti +1m06.8s
9. T Gardemeister/T Tuominen +2m27.0s
10. C Rautenbach/D Senior +2m50.0s

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