Stobart Splash through Leg 2
The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team enjoyed a drama-free second day at Rally Ireland and closed in on a strong result in the opening round of the 2009 FIA World Rally Championship.

A sensible approach saw each of the team’s three Ford Focus RS WRCs steer clear of trouble and finish the day in scoring positions.

Thirty-four cars re-started on Saturday as the action moved to Northern Ireland, taking in two loops of narrow and bumpy stages to the north of Enniskillen.

Stobart began the day’s proceedings with two crews, Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud and Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin, firmly inside the top six in the overall standings. However, the weather had improved little since heavy rain had forced the cancellation of two stages the previous evening, meaning competitors were again presented with large amounts of standing water as they went into the opening stage of the day, the 27.76km Sloughan Glen test.

In order to compensate for the tricky road surface conditions the Stobart Ford Focus RS WRCs were once again fitted with the Pirelli Sottozero winter tyre that had served them so well over the course of the previous day’s action.

A front right puncture on the first stage of the day slowed the Norwegian duo of Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud. However, they did enough on the following SS10 Ballinamallard and SS11 Tempo to complete the first loop of the day in fourth overall. In the second running of the day’s stages Solberg turned in an outstanding performance on SS14 to hold off the hard-charging Chris Atkinson, but remained determined to run at his own pace and finish the rally in a scoring position rather than become involved in a battle with the Australian.

Cumbrian pair Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin maintained a measured approach as they battled the elements on the Irish asphalt. They moved up into sixth in the overall classification following the first stage of the day. However, a wiper malfunction on SS13 Ballinamallard during the second loop hampered their progress significantly and dropped them to seventh overall.

Urmo Aava/Kuldar Sikk had led the rally on the first day before sliding off the road, and the Estonians showed excellent pace again on the second day after re-joining under SuperRally rules. Despite struggling with a misted windscreen throughout the morning loop they still managed to record the fifth-quickest time on SS11 Tempo. Having conquered their fogging issue by the afternoon the newcomers to the Stobart team then posted a series of top eight stage times, putting them in line to pick up manufacturer points.

The Stobart team will look for a repeat of the mature performances turned in by its drivers thus far as they tackle the stages on the final day of the event, which includes the exciting street route through Donegal Town.

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
“I am very, very happy with my performance today. I was really pushing over the last few stages and had my heart in my mouth at some points, but I’ve proved I can drive on this surface. I’m not fighting tomorrow for fourth as I came here for top five and that would be perfect for me. I know my limits and I don’t want to pass them.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
“We lost the wipers on the middle stage of the last loop. We repaired them using two spanners for the last stage but they stopped again towards the end and it was hard going. I was actually surprised we didn’t lose more time, it could have been much worse. We’ve had a solid day in what have been really hard conditions.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Urmo Aava said:
“The car was very damp inside after being in the ditch yesterday and that caused us the problem with the windscreen steaming up in the morning. We lost some time because of that but the afternoon was quite good. The car has been working very well and I got a good feeling for it as the day went on, so the last stage was much better for us. We hope to keep improving tomorrow and learn more about the car.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“It’s been another solid day for the team in continuing difficult conditions. Henning has impressed me again today to maintain fourth position and it’s great to see all three of the Stobart team cars in points-scoring positions. They have had a relatively trouble-free day and used their heads to get through the tricky stages with no problems. After Urmo’s early rally lead yesterday it would be great to see him make up a place tomorrow and have all three crews inside the top-10.”

Leaderboard after Day 2
1. S Loeb/D Elena (F) Citroën C4 2h20m02.8s
2. D Sordo/M Marti (E) Citroën C4 +1m09.1s
3. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen (FIN) Ford Focus RS +2m30.9s
4. H Solberg/C Menkerud (N) Ford Focus RS +5m57.4s
5. C Atkinson/S Prevot (AUS) Citroën C4 +6m02.1s
6. S Ogier/J Ingrassia (F) Citroën C4 +9m13.4s
7. M Wilson/S Martin (GB) Ford Focus RS +9m51.3s
8. K Al Qassimi/M Orr (UAE) Ford Focus RS +11m50s
9. E Boland/D Morrissey (IRL) Subaru Impreza +12m40.4s
10. A MacHale/K Duffy (IRL) Ford Focus RS +13m40.4s

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