Stobart remain on course in Norway
The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team remained on course for a strong result after the opening loop on the last day of Rally Norway, with all three of its Ford Focus RS WRCs placed in the top eight.

The final leg of the event is the longest, with 126.16km of competitive distance awaiting crews in the countryside to the east of Hamar – including the 30.03km Valer test, the longest stage of the event. Thirty-eight of the original 43 starters left the Viking Ship Service Park to face two identical loops of three stages, split by a return to Hamar for a 30-minute mid-day service.

Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud started the final day where they left off on leg two, posting top four stage times and extending their lead over Dani Sordo in fifth place to 21.8 seconds. The Norwegian speedster will now try to maintain that gap over the final three stages and score a superb result for Stobart on his home round.

Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin completed the opening loop hot on the trail of former world champion Petter Solberg. They narrowed the gap to just 0.3 seconds after SS18 Valer, and although that subsequently widened slightly on the final stage of the loop when the Cumbrian pair suffered from intercom problems, they will still be looking to reel in the Norwegian over the afternoon’s stages.

Urmo Aava/Kuldar Sikk remained on course for a comfortable top-eight finish after the first loop. With a healthy lead over Mads Ostberg, one place behind in ninth, they will look to ensure they have a trouble-free afternoon and score valuable manufacturer points for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team.

With loose snow on the first two stages of the second loop it is expected they will cut up on the second pass, meaning drivers will have to think carefully about the line they take through the routes in order to maximize the grip of the Pirelli Sottozero studded snow tyres. A further factor affecting the conditions on the stages is a result of the battle raging between leader Sebastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen. The duo are pushing so hard in the battle for victory they are leaving behind chunks of ice and snow from banks they have struck, and those further down the order are having to drive through them.

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
“That was a good morning, we had really good runs over all three of the stages. I was pushing hard in there as I needed to try and keep Sordo behind me and it worked, we have extended the gap now to over 20 seconds so it’s more comfortable. The grip is getting less and less though as the snow and ice is breaking up and I think it will be difficult for the second pass. But that last stage, it was incredibly fast, we were doing over 200kph!”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
“We had a good run in there and it’s really exciting to be in a fierce battle with Petter on his home stages; I’m driving hard to try and get past him. The road is cleaning a bit and I thought the grip was reasonably good but it will definitely break up for the second pass. We had a small drama just before the start of that last stage and had to change helmets; the sound was a bit crackly in the stage so not an ideal situation.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Urmo Aava said:
“It’s just not coming together for me on this rally. The stages today have felt better but I’m still struggling with the pace here. The car feels perfect but I just need to get my head around the speed and grip levels here and get my confidence up a bit. I know the problem, I just need to drive harder.”

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