Stobart get the snow on the road
The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team has made a confident start to the second round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Rally Norway.

In total 42 cars crossed the start line in the snowy Scandinavian state’s capital, Oslo. They were flagged off by the mayor of Oslo, Fabian Stang, and leader of Hedmark county council, Siv Tørudbakken, with Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg looking on. The ceremonial start took place in Bjerkebane racecourse in front of a packed stadium of Norway’s enthusiastic rally fans, before the action proper kicked off with a 1.92km Super Special Stage at the arena.

After a trouble-free Shakedown session all three Stobart crews were fired up to tackle the opening test. Stobart’s hugely popular Norwegian crew of Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud were wished good luck by Prime Minister Stoltenberg before they entered the Super Special Stage, and went on to record the eighth-fastest time overall despite a small spin on the first corner. Urmo Aava/Kuldar Sikk went one better and placed seventh, with Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin sitting just behind in ninth overall.

With the Stobart Ford Focus WRCs comfortably placed in the top ten after the first stage, all three crews will look to press on when the competition resumes. Friday will see the action begin at the event’s main base in Hamar, 120km north of the capital. Despite being based in the same area as the 2007 edition of the event nearly half of the 360.90km of stage distance is new. Along with the other manufacturer team cars the Stobart Ford Focus WRCs will leave the main service area in the Viking Ship arena for the opening loop, which begins with the 14.62km Opaker stage. Three more stages will follow before teams have the only opportunity during the first day to service, at a 15-minute remote service zone in Kongsvinger. Crews will then face another four tests in the snowy forests to complete day one.

Rally Norway’s loose-surface routes are covered with a thick layer of snow and ice and huge snow banks line the roads. These conditions, combined with Pirelli’s Sottozero tyre, should provide drivers with a constant level of grip and the chance to use the snow banks to slow the car down and guide them around corners in spectacular fashion. However, if fresh snow falls on the stages it could make them more slippery for the front-runners and hand those further down the running order a slight advantage in terms of grip.

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
“It’s great to start Rally Norway in front of so many of my fans, and I’m sure tonight kicked off what will be a fantastic battle over the weekend. It was an honour to be waved off by the Prime Minister and the stage was really good fun. From what we’ve seen on the recce the rest of the rally is going to be held in perfect conditions for both the drivers and spectators.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
“We had a good run through Shakedown today and everything felt really comfortable, especially the grip with the tyres. Tonight’s stage was such an exciting way to start the event and we’re looking forward to getting into the proper stages tomorrow.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Urmo Aava said:
“It was great to start the rally here in the capital city of Oslo in front of so many fans, they really enjoy their rallying here. The surface here is very different from any other event, but the Ford Focus is the best car on this type of surface so my aim is to get into the top four. We had a good run tonight and Shakedown was also very positive, so I can’t wait to get started in the morning.”

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