Stobart aiming to fly high on Finnish WRC thriller
Round nine of the FIA World Rally Championship gets underway next Thursday when the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team heads to Scandinavia for the Neste Oil Rally Finland. Currently fourth in the Manufacturers’ Championship the Stobart squad will be looking for some solid results on an event all three crews are very comfortable with.

Seventh in the championship, and leading Stobart crew, Gigi Galli/Giovanni Bernacchini will be searching for a top-five result in Finland especially with their commitment on high-speed events. Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud will be the second nominated points scoring crew for the team and they currently lie eighth in their respective driver and co-driver championships.

Running in the third Stobart-entered Ford Focus RS WRC07 are British pair Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin as they take on the event together for the first time. Contesting three Finnish national rallies back in 2005 gives them some extended knowledge of the fast flowing nature of the Scandinavian stages.

For Galli this will be his eighth attempt at Rally Finland which over the years has seen him pick up GpN class victory in 2004 and a fifth place overall back in 2006. While he did not contest the event last year the Italian will be raring to tackle the fast, wide roads which compliment his committed and flamboyant driving style.

Solberg is the most experienced of all three Stobart drivers with eight Rally Finland event starts under his belt. He will be looking for a solid display on a rally, close to his native Norway, which attracts numerous Norwegian spectators. This will be Solberg’s 65th WRC event start since he made his debut in the championship 10 years ago.

With over 100 entries Rally Finland is the only event in 2008 that counts as a round of the WRC, JWRC and PWRC. In total 24 special stages will be contested once again based out of Jyväskylä in the southern region of Finland.

This year the vintage event offers 340 kilometres of competitive stage distance over typically fast flowing, smooth gravel roads which have become a feature of the WRC since its inception in 1973. It is this fast-paced action and party-like atmosphere which attracts hundreds of thousands of fans to the event each year.

Rally Finland currently holds the record for the fastest ever rally when Marcus Grönholm won the event in 2005 with an average speed of 122.86kph and the Stobart team will be relying upon the performance of their Pirelli Scorpion gravel tyres as they aim for this incredible feat.

Weather conditions in Jyväskylä are forecast to be dry with temperatures ranging between 25-30 degrees centigrade and high humidity expected. Rally HQ and Service will again be based at Paviljonki – a versatile congress and trade fair centre in the heart of Finland.

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Gigi Galli said:
“I hope that the time will go quickly over the next few days because I have been annoyed sitting at home and not being able to go rallying! We have done this rally many times before and I know it well but it is a bit of a shame that the famous Ouninpohja stage has been cancelled this year because it is one of my all time favourites. It is not going to be easy because Mikko and Jari-Matti will be lightning fast but OK we will try our best and the pace has been very good for us over the last three gravel events, now we just need a bit of luck and a good result. Finland is also a famous rally for all the spectators and there will be lots of Italians there because it is the vacation time in Italy so hopefully most of them will be supporting me. This will be fast, fun and some big jumps but if we can be consistent and stay out of trouble I think we can do well here.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
“I have done this event many times before and it is one I love because of the fast speeds and massive jumps. For the last two years we have finished in the top-five so hopefully we can achieve this again and maybe even finish on the podium. Finland is not so far from Norway so this is an important event where lots of people come from my country to watch and this will help having them there. I have been doing a lot of fitness training during the summer break and the hard work with my trainer should help in Finland which can be quite tough because the concentration has to be at a maximum on these fast roads. There are a lot of good drivers doing this event but it is also very easy to get caught out so the main thing is to keep out of trouble until the end.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
“I’m really looking forward to Finland and getting back in the car after such a big break over the summer. I’ve had a bit of time in the car with the a few promotional drives like Goodwood and some drive days which have been really beneficial while there have been no rallies. Scott and I have spent some time recently working on our notes and I think with even more new rally route this year we will need to be onto the ball with our pacenotes; they are such an important aspect of a fast event like this. Finland is going to be quite warm but I have been keeping my fitness level up over the break with the bike ride across Britain and some training back in Cumbria and I am feeling 100 percent ready to get back into the action.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“I’m looking forward to the second half of the season with the Stobart team. We have a strong line-up for Finland and the next few events with Duval scoring for the team on the remaining tarmac rallies. I believe in the second half of the season the Stobart team can achieve its best results to date. Both Gigi and Henning have good experience in Finland which is crucial for achieving good results. The team still has a chance for a podium spot in the Manufacturers’ Championship, especially with Duval’s addition, so firm results in Finland will be a good way to mark the start of the second half of the season.”

Event Information
Date: 31 July - 3 August 2008
Round: 9 of 15 FIA World Rally Championship
Based: Jyväskylä, Finland
Stage surface: Gravel
Total stage distance: 340.42 km
Number of stages: 24
Longest stage: Lankamaa at 23.09km (SS22)
Central Service Park: Paviljonki

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