Stobart secure solid points in classic Corsican conclusion
Both Stobart VK M-Sport Ford nominated crews have finished the 13th round of the FIA World Rally Championship with a healthy tally of points today in Ajaccio. Rallye de France – Tour de Corse brought out some amazing team spirit from Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila who finished the event fourth after being in a podium position coming into the final stage this afternoon but unselfishly played the team game to back up the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team in their bid for a third consecutive Manufacturer crown.

Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin showed exactly what they are capable of in Corsica this week by moving from 14th on Friday night to eighth by the rally’s end and picking up two vital manufacturer points for their Stobart team.

Further demonstrating the strength of the Stobart team were Barry Clark/Paul Nagle who finished an impressive 10th on their debut in a world rally car on asphalt. Completing the quartet was Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud who shrugged off two punctures to finish the event 15th.

The performance this weekend from Latvala was nothing short of superb and his amazing speed stemmed throughout the event and improved on every occasion. His raft of super fast stage times included a fastest time on stage 15 this afternoon. The 23-year-old Finn was in a fierce battle for most of the weekend with both works Subaru drivers but managed to comfortably come out well on top by the finish of the event despite carrying two spare Pirelli PZero tyres most of the rally for safety; which weighed down his Stobart Ford Focus RS.

Wilson’s result now sees his 2008 Driver Championship tally move to 13 which is more points than his total career tally prior to this year. After a small ‘off’ on Friday’s third stage the Brit was lucky not to damage the front left suspension and fortunately the durability of the damper and the Pirelli PZero tyre - which stayed inflated to the end of the test - saw him only loose 40 seconds as spectators had to help him back onto the road. After that mishap Wilson kicked things into gear setting some great times over the final two days which included a fifth fastest time on the monster Agosta – Pont de Calzola stage this morning.

This event was one of the most demanding on cars with many WRC crews falling to rock-induced punctures and mechanical damage as several inconspicuous rocks littered the roads. Unfortunately one of these crews was that of Solberg and Menkerud and lightening stuck twice on this occasion with the Norwegian pair picking up punctures on Friday and Saturday. Time lost on Friday swelled when their Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC fell of its jack when the pair attempted to change the puncture during stage 6. Some constructive setup changes at midday service on Saturday however helped Solberg on his way to more positive times today.

Clark began Rallye de France with the goal of achieving a top-12 finish and has managed to handsomely better this by coming home in 10th overall. The 26-year-old put in a consistent drive with his stage times improving immensely over the course of the rally. The only problem for the Scotsman was a small impact with a wall on stage 10 when his car oversteered too much coming out of a slow corner slightly damaging the rear bumper.

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:
“I have never enjoyed driving on Tarmac so much in my life than this morning, it was absolutely brilliant and it just felt so easy. I really have learnt so much in the last two weeks and now I know that I need to be really precise and not force the car. This is a fantastic result for me here and definitely my best ever on Tarmac; I could have been on the podium, but the important thing is to keep Ford in with a chance of becoming champions again. I have had two great results in two weeks and no-one can take that away from me.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
“The last two days have been extremely positive and after our problem on Friday when we lost time, it just shows that anything can happen on a rally. We have had some good battles in climbing back up the leaderboard especially this morning when we got past Tirabassi into eighth place. It’s been a very useful rally to learn more about the tyres and how to drive on these twisty, technical stages and a great boost in confidence to have set decent splits and have a really solid two days.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
“I like the stages here especially with the twisty, narrow sections and my driving was really coming together on the last day. The rally went well, apart from the two punctures, and my final result doesn’t exactly reflect the advances we have made and the good times we set today. I’m not a big Tarmac fan and am definitely looking forward to Japan and to get back onto gravel.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Barry Clark said:
“I’m really very happy; to get up into the top 10 in my first Tarmac rally in a world rally car is absolutely amazing. I have just really built things up over the weekend and focused on improving my driving and making it to the end of the event. It was also a surprise to be beating some of the full time manufacturer drivers along the way. I prepared well for this rally and it all paid off.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“It’s been a fantastic team effort especially with Jari-Matti’s great result; he has played an important role in backing up the BP Ford Abu Dhabi Team. Matthew’s fight-back to collect both manufacturer and driver points has really impressed me. It’s also very encouraging to see François get on the podium as he is joining the Stobart team for the last two events and it shows he has got to grips with the car.”

Stobart Group CEO Andrew Tinkler said:
“Both Matt and Jari-Matti have done a fantastic job here. Matt came back really well after his problem on Friday and Jari-Matti’s speed and consistency here have impressed me massively. The Stobart team have a great partnership with Ford and if we can assist them in clinching the championship title then we will.”

Final Leaderboard
1. S Loeb/D Elena 3h42m58.0s
2. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen +3m24.7s
3. F Duval/P Pivato +3m31.6s
4. J-M Latvala/M Anttila +3m37.5s
5. P Solberg/P Mills +5m35.4s
6. C Atkinson/S Prevot +6m10.4s
7. U Aava/K Sikk +7m25.2s
8. M Wilson/S Martin +9m02.2s
9. M Ostberg/O-K Unnerud+9m13.3s
10 B Clark/P Nagle +13m38.3s

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