Nippon points for Wilson and Stobart
Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin have scored a points’ finish on the penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship by finishing Rally Japan in seventh position today. The 21-year-old driver battled some treacherous conditions to post his sixth points’ finish for the 2008 season.

Unfortunately François Duval/Patrick Pivato retired from the event after an accident on stage 6 saw the French co-driver airlifted to Higashi Tokushukai hospital in Sapporo with a fractured pelvis and fractured tibia. He currently remains in a stable but critical condition with Doctors reporting continued positive improvement in his progress.

Organisers and event medical staff did a fantastic job to arrive speedily on the scene and work efficiently to help the Frenchman out of his car after he became trapped in it for several minutes after the accident. Duval was uninjured in the accident and accompanied his navigator to the hospital.

The accident occurred 4.8 kilometres into stage six on a fast muddy section of road when Duval slid wide into a crash barrier heavily impacting a steel support pole on the co-driver’s door. First on the scene were team-mates Wilson and Martin who aided Duval in alerting safety officials.

Wilson fluctuated throughout the event and by the end of day 2 was perched nicely in fifth despite some time-loss due to a lack of rhythm with his pacenotes on these brand new stages to the WRC. Today saw the young Brit in a fierce battle with the two Suzuki drivers but unfortunately slipped back to seventh on what has been one of the most demanding day’s rallying in recent years.

The result sees Wilson pick up two valuable driver points which launches him back into the top-10 in the Drivers’ Championship standings heading into his home, and final event of the season, Wales Rally GB.

Weather conditions varied throughout the event with Saturday being the pick of the crop offering blue skies and relatively dry roads. Today unfortunately saw the worst of this event’s conditions as it started raining heavily at start of stage 22 and continued falling until the final stage this morning making conditions extremely difficult for this afternoon’s final four stages.

The roads have been quite consistent concerning attrition levels and the soft surface saw some big ruts forming especially during the second pass of most special stages. This cost several crews a big price with many top WRC competitors falling victim to the slippery stages generally ran to the south east of Rally HQ at the Sapporo Dome.

The conditions yet again forced a big test on the Pirelli Scorpion gravel tyre and it passed with flying colours as only a fraction of the field succumbed to punctures over the tough road surface. The next event for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team is their home event and the final round of the year; Wales Rally GB in December.

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
“The first day went really well for us and I really enjoyed it apart from the incident with François. I think everyone in the whole WRC community did an amazing job to help and support the situation and I hope Patrick gets well soon and will be back on the rallying scene in no time. Days two and three were a lot more difficult for me and I really struggled in the conditions which were some of the toughest and most demanding I have ever experienced. When I knew I was slipping out of the fight with PG and Toni this afternoon I backed off a lot to preserve the car and just cruised to the end to make sure I secured the points and move up to 10th in the championship.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“This has been one of the most difficult rallies for the Stobart team under the circumstances. Patrick has been making steady progress since the difficulties he went through on Friday evening in hospital. I must say a big thank you to everybody in the WRC community for their support and help with the situation, it has really shown the true spirit and camaraderie within this amazing championship. Matthew’s performance on Friday was one of his best legs to-date. Unfortunately arriving first on the scene to François and Patrick’s accident made it difficult for him over the last two days but considering the condition of the stages it was a fantastic achievement to finish seventh. It has also given him some great experience on a rally that has thrown all of the elements at competitors.”

Stobart Group CEO Andrew Tinkler said:
“It has been another solid performance from Matthew and this will fill him with confidence ahead of his home event next month. I was saddened to hear of François and Patrick’s accident on Friday and I hope that Patrick has a speedy recovery from the injuries he sustained. This result is also another strong one for the Stobart team as we head to Wales Rally GB next month for our home event and the final WRC round this season.”

Final Leaderboard
1. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen 3h25m03.0sec
2. J-M Latvala/M Anttila +31.1s
3. S Loeb/D Elena +2m30.6s
4. C Atkinson/S Prevot +3m42.4s
5. P-G Andersson/J Andersson +5m12.9s
6. T Gardemeister/T Tuominen +6m09.4s
7. M Wilson/S Martin +7m05.3s
8. P Solberg/P Mills +13m19.9s
9. F Villagra/J Perez Companc +15m40.8s
10. D Sordo/M Marti +17m08.5s

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