Devine Duval dominates Deutschland for Stobart
François Duval/Patrick Pivato have put in a super drive on the final day of ADAC Rallye Deutschland to give their Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team its fifth ever podium in the FIA World Rally Championship by finishing the event in third position.

Also displaying brilliance were Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud who have achieved their first ever points scoring result on asphalt together. Team-mates Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin kept things going under some tricky conditions to finish the event in 12th just 17 seconds of 11th placed Andreas Mikkelsen.

Unfortunately Gigi Galli/Giovanni Bernacchini retired from the event after an accident on stage 5 on day 1 which saw the Italian driver airlifted to hospital with a fracture to his left femur. Successful surgery on Friday night sees Galli recovering well, however, doctors have estimated that he will be unable to walk on the leg for six to eight weeks and will require physiotherapy after this time. A decision to his replacement for the season will be made in due course.

The outstanding effort made by the Grafschaft Veldenz stage medical team in aiding the pair from danger and into hospital saw Stage Safety Commander Manfred Bläsius awarded the ‘Abu Dhabi Spirit of the Rally Award’ for his exceptional co-ordination during the emergency.

Duval’s performance saw him pick up fastest times on all four special stages today as he won an epic battle for the final rostrum spot against BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver, and championship leader, Mikko Hirvonen. After battling to find a comfortable setup with his Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC07 on the opening two days, the Belgian picked up the feeling on the final day. This better understanding of the characteristics of the car will certainly put Duval in good stead ahead of the two remaining tarmac events this year.

For Solberg it has been a superb and fun drive as he picked up his first ever top-eight result on the sealed surface. All weekend the Norwegian gradually increased his speed focusing more on bettering his technique on asphalt rather than playing around too much with the setup of his Focus RS.

Twenty-one-year-old Wilson began the event with a degree of caution as he struggled to find the appropriate car setup to compliment his driving style on asphalt. Fortunately some smart suspension changes by his Stobart technical team during Saturday’s midday service rectified the situation as he began to gain more feeling, and confidence, with the car.

In total Rallye Deutschland covered 352.89 kilometres over 19 stages, the last of which was a 4.37 kilometre super special based through the city streets of Trier. Unlike previous years’ weather, conditions remained dry for the entire event and Pirelli’s PZero tyre performed well on the difficult and specialised asphalt stages. The next event for the Stobart squad sees them roll onto Repco Rally New Zealand where the fast, gravel stages will provide another fantastic challenge for the team.

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Gigi Galli said:
“I’m obviously very disappointed with the accident but thankfully the organisers and medical team did a great job. The strength of the Ford Focus, my Stilo helmet and the help of Giovanni all contributed to keep my injuries to a minimum as I think it could have been much worse. I feel tired but not too bad after the operation and unfortunately for my fans I will be out of action for a few months but am looking forward to making a speedy recovery and getting back to the stages.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver François Duval said:
“It’s great to come here with very little testing and on new tyres and be able to finish on the podium. It was always going to be a big challenge to fight for a win as the other drivers have been competing all year and have been testing so the result feels very good and for sure we have made improvements with the setup and learnt about the tyres so there are many positives. The experience will help for the next two tarmac events we are doing.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
“This has been a very special result for me it’s nearly like winning the rally! Scoring my first points on tarmac is a big achievement and we have made some good steps here. It was a difficult rally for me as I don’t have much experience on tarmac and I came here to learn some more and make improvements. I knew I wasn’t going to be challenging with the leaders here but we made good progress and learnt a lot for Spain and Corsica so from that point of view it was a positive event for us.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
“It has been a very useful event and we have made good improvements through our tarmac technique and also have learned some more about setup and the Pirelli tyre compounds. I’m not happy with the amount of small mistakes I made with spins and stalls but we have learnt from this for the future. We made some important suspension changes which helped the car under braking and gave me more confidence.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“After the disappointment of Gigi’s retirement, it has turned out to be a dream result to get another podium for the Stobart team. François has done a fantastic job here and his confidence and performance have both increased throughout the rally; this will help for the events later in the year. In addition, Henning has scored his best ever tarmac result and Matt’s times improved well over the weekend, providing more good experience for both of them for Spain and Corsica.”

Stobart Group CEO Andrew Tinkler said:
“It’s been a very mixed event for the Stobart team. We managed to secure another great podium finish and it really underlines the work put in by the whole team and the effort by the drivers. Unfortunately it seems that Gigi will be sidelined for a while and everyone at Stobart Motorsport wishes him a very speedy recovery; but the strength of the car during the accident and the professionalism of the event safety team really shone through.”

Final Leaderboard
1. S Loeb/D Elena 3h26m19.7s
2. D Sordo/M Marti +47.7s
3. F Duval/P Pivato +1m20.0s
4. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen +1m30.1s
5. P Solberg/P Mills +2m35.3s
6. C Atkinson/S Prevot +4m45.9s
7. H Solberg/C Menkerud +5m36.2s
8. U Aava/K Sikk +5m37.8s
9. J-M Latvala/M Anttila +6m17.2s
10. T Gardemeister/T Tuominen +7m16.8s

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