Aava Leads for Stobart in Ireland
The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team enjoyed an outstanding start to rain-lashed Rally Ireland - with new boys Urmo Aava/Kuldar Sikk leading the field after the first loop of stages.

The Cumbrian-based team saw two of its crews feature in the top five after the first three stages, with tyre choice proving to be a major factor. All three of the Stobart cars started the opening round of the 2009 FIA World Rally Championship using the Pirelli Sottozero winter tyre, which proved to be a prescient option in the face of the extreme conditions. This led to them out-performing more-experienced drivers and manufacturer teams.

Estonian newcomers to the Stobart team Urmo Aava/Kuldar Sikk led the green charge, blasting their way to second place after SS1 Glenboy. They then went one better after the second stage by moving up to lead overall from reigning world champion Sebastien Loeb on their debut outing. Another solid time on the third stage saw the pair retain the lead going into first service.

Stobart’s Norwegian duo Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud also fared well in the torrential downpour. They outpaced Sebastien Loeb on his favoured surface over the first stage, and went on to overall fifth place at Service A. Former Rally Ireland winner Matthew Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin were one of a number of top crews caught out by the treacherous conditions, with a scare on the first few corners denting their confidence. However, they quickly found their rhythm again on stages SS2 and SS3 to fight their way back into the top ten.

Thirty-six competitors were flagged away at the ceremonial start the previous evening by FIA president Max Mosely in front of the crowds at Enniskillen Castle.

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Urmo Aava said:
“It is a dream come true for me and a great start to my first rally with Stobart. I didn’t expect the conditions to be so bad. There was so much water on the road I could hardly keep the car in a straight line. Our tyre choice was perfect though and the tyres were working well; better than I expected in these conditions. To be in number one position coming into the first service is a fantastic feeling and a new experience for me.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
“The conditions on the first three stages were so difficult but we made the correct tyre choice and it’s been a great morning and a fantastic start to the rally. It is very slippery and the standing water is making things tricky. I don’t have much experience here so I know not to push too hard and use my head. This is a long first day and we still have a long way to go.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
“It was very tricky out there. We had a massive moment on the first stage which knocked our confidence a bit. We expected the roads to be slippery but the patches of standing water made it very difficult and hard to judge. But the tyres are working well; we made the correct choice and there’s a surprising amount of grip even when it’s very wet.”

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