Strengthened Stobart squad crack on to Corsica
Four registered crews from the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team embark on the 13th round of the FIA World Rally Championship next week when they head straight from Spain to Corsica for Rally de France – Tour de Corse.

Nominated to score points for the team will again be Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin and Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila. Joining them to create a four-strong Stobart squad is Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud and Barry Clark/Paul Nagle.

After 12 rounds of the championship Latvala lies fifth in the driver standings and with some tuition from one of Finland’s top touring car drivers, and his impressive sixth place finish on Rally Catalunya, the 23-year-old will be searching for yet another points finish this season.

For the second time on Tarmac this year Wilson will be a nominated points scorer for the team who still sit with a chance of taking third in the Manufacturers’ Championship. The 21-year-old has also been shaping up for the Corsican test receiving some driver training from world class asphalt coaching specialist Rob Wilson in England and after setting some positive times on the final day of Rally Catalunya will be looking to roll this fresh knowledge onto the Tour de Corse.

Solberg re-joins the Stobart squad for his first event since Rally Germany back in August where he scored his best ever result on Tarmac and first ever points finish on the sealed surface; coming home in seventh. The Norwegian will be looking to build on this especially with the event directly following the Catalan rally which was run this weekend.

A first for the Stobart team sees a Scotsman in the equation as Clark joins the ranks after two successful events in Jordan and Turkey earlier this year with the Munchi’s Ford outfit. The reigning Fiesta Sporting Trophy International champion helped secure these events within his calendar after last year’s success and as part of his championship prize. This will be the 26-year-old’s first Tarmac event in a World Rally car as he sets his sights on gaining maximum experience of the machinery on asphalt.

It will be a test of durability for the Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC07 which comes directly from three solid days of competition in Spain. It will also be a test for tyre engineers with the event allowing competitors to choose from a hard or soft compound Pirelli PZero tyre; a decision which could prove crucial to the final result.

Tour de Corse is renowned as one of the most watched events on the WRC calendar as its history dates back to the inaugural running of the championship in 1973 and has produced legendry winners from every WRC era. The event is extremely technical on more abrasive Tarmac than Spain and will consist of 16 special stages covering a total of 359.02 kilometres of competitive distance, again based from the island’s capital Ajaccio.

The event also throws up a logistical challenge for teams who travel straight from the last round in Spain with only a couple of days to get the full kit over the Mediterranean Sea. However, with Stobart’s logistical expertise, the team are confident of a smooth transition.

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:
“I am really looking forward to Corsica now after the improvements we made in Spain. I love the Corsica stages as they are more abrasive and the grip is good and it gives you a good feeling to be able to push on harder. I finished fourth here last year and won Group N a few years ago so I’m hoping for a good result again. I think my confidence will be better as I know I can push harder on the stages; there are not so many cuts, less gravel pulled out onto the road and they flow quite well when you get into a good rhythm. I found a good setting in Spain but most of all I learnt a lot about the Pirelli tyres and now I know how much I can push them and that I need to be really precise with them. That’s what helped me to get better times in Spain.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
“We had a few stages in Spain where I was under one second per kilometre off the leader so that’s a very positive feeling to take to Corsica next week. I like the stages as the grip is good on the abrasive roads and with a more relaxed recce period than other events, it allows me more time to look over the video and prepare for the rally. I find it beneficial to have two events very close together; we finished off well in Spain, with a good setup and confidence, and that means we will start in Corsica with this fresh in my mind. The weather as always can be very unpredictable on the island but if it stays dry I’m confident we can finish with a points result.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
“Spain last week was a good learning event for us and we managed to find a setting that I was happy with after my engineer helped with some new differential settings. I drove a strong event remembering that I needed to learn as much as possible from Spain and now I am in a stronger position for Corsica. The more abrasive stages here will help me and I’m confident the feeling with the car will be improved.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Barry Clark said:
“This is going to be a seriously tough rally but I’m really looking forward to the challenge. Corsica is different from other tarmac events because there is just corner after corner and virtually no straights. It’s also very narrow and bumpy so there’s a lot to contend with. I’ve competed in Corsica once before in 2006 in the Fiesta but this will be a whole different scenario. It will be about having a good shakedown and building up my feeling and confidence in the Focus WRC.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“The team are starting in Corsica on the back of a decent performance in Spain where both Jari-Matti and Matt made some good improvements. There’s no reason why this form shouldn’t continue and with Henning and Barry joining them, we have a strong line-up within the Stobart squad. Jari-Matti was fourth here last year so there’s a good chance of him challenging for a podium place for the team.”

Event Information
Date: 10-12 October 2008
Round: 13 of 15 FIA World Rally Championship
Based: Ajaccio, Corsica
Stage surface: Asphalt
Total stage distance: 359.02km
Number of stages: 16
Longest stage: 31.81km, SS13&15 Agosta-Pont de Calzola
Central Service Park: Port Ajaccio

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