Stobart crews on fire in roasting Turkish conditions
An event of mixed fortunes has seen the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team close in on third place in the FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers after round eight in Turkey. Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud were the stars of the show finishing the Rally of Turkey in a well deserved fifth position overall.

Backing up the Norwegians with yet another solid points finish were Brits Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin who maintained a points scoring position throughout the event to finish seventh. This now sees Wilson ninth in the Drivers’ Championship. It was not such a fortunate event for team-mates Gigi Galli/Giovanni Bernacchini who retired overnight before beginning today’s final leg with Galli falling ill. Under advice from the team’s doctor Galli decided not to start today due to exhaustion and dehydration caused by the intense heat and demanding rally conditions over the past two days and has been advised to rest and rehydrate for the safety of his own personal health.After day 1, and a fastest stage win on the final test, Solberg was on top of his game to slot in front of BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver Jari-Matti Latvala but had a big job on Saturday running second on the road. During Friday night’s flexi-service Solberg’s team of technicians changed the gearbox in his car which affected the way it felt to drive and this took some getting used to on Saturday; but the Norwegian’s performance over the day was outstanding and drew praise from the Stobart Team Principal. Twenty-one-year-old Wilson has continued to show his impressive speed by finishing in the points for the fourth time this year. The youngster was constantly setting stage times within the top-eight with the most impressive coming on the 22.4 kilometre Phaselis 1 test on Friday where he crossed the flying finish as the third fastest driverGalli was running hot and despite a small fire to the rear bumper of his Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC07 on day 1 he was smoking through the opening day taking three stage wins. Unfortunately a turbo boost valve problem on the 27.36 kilometre Silyon 2 stage lost the Italian star four minutes with an extensive lack of power yesterday dropping him back to eighth before his retirement through illness.Stobart crews again relied heavily on information from championship supporters Pirelli who kept them out of trouble in Greece with minimal reports of punctures and tyre-damage and it was again the same in Turkey with only a handful of slow punctures reported over the four days of pounding competition.All three main days of Rally Turkey took crews to the west of Rally HQ which again this year was based in the resort town of Kemer in the Anatolian region. Stages were rough, rocky and some of the most technical on gravel this year as crews worked their way over 360 kilometres through 19 demanding stages. With a six week break in the WRC calendar the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team will be knuckling down into some summer training and development before returning to the championship at the end of July for the next round, Neste Oil Rally Finland. Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Gigi Galli said:

“It is a very disappointing end to a tough event that we started really well on. The first day was fantastic for me and we managed the performance well and found a good compromise between preserving the tyres and keeping a fast speed; indeed we would have been leading for the whole day without the time penalty. But the days were long and hard and I was totally exhausted on Saturday evening and needed some treatment from the doctor for dehydration. I didn’t feel any better on Sunday and it wasn’t possible or safe for me to continue.”Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:

“I’m very, very happy; fifth place here is great and I have been so pleased with my driving. It’s been a tough rally and we have had to manage the tyres well for the whole time. The first day felt great and it was a good feeling to set a fastest time. Then we had to make some changes to the car and the feeling just wasn’t as good as the first day. But we kept the pace up and got into an exciting battle with Dani Sordo on the last day. This rally has been a big challenge with tough conditions but to be in the top-five and collect more points for me and the team is fantastic.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
“This has definitely been one of our strongest performances we have had pace-wise and to come here, make new pace notes and set good times right from the very first stage is great. We have taken things step-by-step this year and to have two strong finishes in a row, in Greece and now Turkey, is very encouraging and helps a lot with my confidence for the next event. Again, this was a long, hot rally and my physical training has really proved its worth.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“The Stobart drivers have really shone on this seriously demanding event. Gigi and Henning both set fastest times and the team have closed the championship gap to Subaru. Matthew has been brilliant here, he has really knuckled down and put in a strong performance, again picking up more driver points. It’s been a disappointing end to the rally for Gigi and its just shows how tough and physically demanding this sport is. All of the guys deserve a well-earned break over the summer now after a recent series of strong results.”

Stobart Group CEO Andrew Tinkler said:
“I know Matthew and Scott have been training hard recently for the marathon charity bike ride and their fitness has been a big help this weekend. The Stobart crews have pushed hard in the tough conditions and more fastest times from Henning and Gigi shows the talent and speed we have in the team. I know the second half of the season will bring us more great results as the guys continue to improve.”

Final results
1. Hirvonen / Lehtinen 4h 42m 07.1s
2. Latvala / Anttila +7.9s (diff. to 1st)
3. Loeb / Elena+25.7s
4. Sordo / Marti+2m 25.6s
5. Solberg / Menkerud +2m 33.7s
6. Solberg / Mills +2m 48.2s
7. Wilson / Martin +4m 24.2s
8. Rautenbach / Senior +7m 46.7s
9. Villagra / Perez Companc +9m 34.1s
10. Clark / Nagle +14m 48.8s

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