Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson is in line for another FIA World Rally Championship points finish after moving up two places to eighth on Day 2 of Rally Finland, the ninth round of the FIA World Rally Championship. But Wilson’s Stobart team mate Henning Solberg had his bid to pick up more drivers’ championship points ended after a suspension breakage on SS12.

The 86 crews that left Service Park in Jyväskylä this morning faced entirely different conditions from those they had tackled on Day 1. Overnight rain helped with grip on the opening loop of three stages around the town of Jämsä, but also meant that the roads became rutted on the second pass.

The longest day of the rally, at 166.67kms, featured some of the biggest and most spectacular jumps on the WRC calendar which had a sting in the tail for some of the crews as they suffered heavy landings. But for those who made it to the end of the day there was the challenge of SS19 Väärinmaja, the longest stage of the rally and a real test of the drivers’ endurance.

Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin had an excellent start to the day as they moved ahead of Jari Ketomaa into ninth place after SS11 Leustu. The Brit, who had struggled to find grip on Day 1, was enjoying the wetter road conditions on the morning stages and was spurred on by his battle with the Finn for a place in the points.

After making some positive changes to his pacenotes on the first pass of the opening loop, Wilson started the second pass in confident mood and looked set to post an excellent time on SS14 Leustu 2. But he lost around 15 seconds when he was forced to pull over and restart the car after the ignition switch on his Ford Focus RS WRC was knocked off after landing from a big jump.

The crew thought that they had clipped a rock near the end of SS16 Surkee 2 and exercised extra caution on the last few kilometres of the stage but still produced a top-eight time setting them up for a strong challenge on the final section of the day.

The final three stages of Day 2 required all of the drivers’ concentration and skill on the fast, narrow roads around the town of Mänttä, culminating in the longest and one of the toughest stages of the rally SS19 Väärinmaja. Wilson produced a steady performance, avoiding the problems that caught out other drivers and was rewarded with a place in the points which he will aim to maintain tomorrow.

Solberg and co-driver Cato Menkerud had the best possible start to the day as they overhauled Finnish driver Matti Rantanen to move up to fifth place. But around 10kms into SS12 Himos, Solberg’s Rally Finland challenge was brought to a halt as he sustained damage to the front suspension at a slow hairpin corner. The driveshaft on the Ford Focus RS WRC became loose, leaving the car with no drive and forcing the Norwegians out of Day 2.

The Stobart team have worked hard to fix the Ford Focus RS WRC and Solberg and Menkerud will restart the rally in the morning under SupeRally conditions with the aim of securing as many manufacturer points as possible for the team.

The final day of the event is just 47.44kms long, comprising four stages to the east of Jyväskylä.

Other rally news
BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver Mikko Hirvonen leads the rally at the end of Day 2 having stretched the gap over championship rival Sebastien Loeb to 32 seconds. Hirvonen has been ably backed up by his team mate Jari-Matti Latvala who moved ahead of Citroen’s Dani Sordo to take third place overall.

Munchi’s Ford WRT driver Matti Rantanen has continued to impress in his Ford Focus RS WRC maintaining his fifth place going into the final day. Citroen Junior driver Sebastien Ogier has produced some impressive stage times and moved up to sixth place after Mads Ostberg crashed out on the final stage of the day. Petter Solberg is also out of the rally after suffering engine problems while F1 star Kimi Räikkönen went off in the same spot as Ostberg.

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
“Today started off slowly for us as I didn’t realise the grip on the first stage was so good, but we soon upped the speed after that. The stages had surprisingly good levels of grip and we were able to push a bit harder because of that. It was unfortunate about the time we lost when the ignition switch got knocked off after a heavy landing but it’s very hard to judge the correct speed for the big jumps and then catch too much air. The last stage was difficult and we took it really easy in there. It’s narrow in places and really tricky – it’s definitely been the hardest stage of the rally so far.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
“I am really disappointed to be out today. Things had been going really well this morning and we had moved ahead of Rantanen on the first stage which was one of my main goals for the day. The suspension broke at a hairpin and the damage was just too bad to continue but the team have done a good job in getting the car back to normal and I’m glad we will be able to rejoin tomorrow. After retiring so early today, it will be important to get some more fast gravel kilometres under our belt before Rally Australia.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“It’s been another solid drive from Matthew and he’s beaten some of the local drivers on a few stages today. I’m glad to see he’s moved up into the driver points now on what is the fastest rally in the championship and had it not been for the problem with the ignition switch today then I’m sure he could have been higher. Henning hasn’t been as fortunate and his suspension damage meant he had to retire for the day. But it’s still possible for both Stobart cars to collect manufacturer points tomorrow and that would be a positive way to come away from this event.”

Leaderboard at end of Day 2
1. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen(FIN) Ford Focus RS 2h27m35.8s
2. S Loeb/D Elena (FRA) Citroën C4 +32.0s
3. J-M Latvala/M Anttila (FIN) Ford Focus RS +1m08.3s
4. D Sordo/M Marti (ESP) Citroën C4 +1m18.8s
5. M Rantanen/M Lukka Ford Focus RS +4m10.6s
6. S Ogier/J Ingrassia (FRA) Citroën C4 +4m28.1s
7. J Ketomaa/M Stenberg (FIN) Subaru Impreza +4m59.1s
8. M Wilson/S Martin (GB) Ford Focus RS +6m01.7s
9. C Rautenbach/D Barrit (ZIM) Citroën C4 +8m43.8s
10. K Al Qassimi/M Orr (UAE) Ford Focus RS +11m29.0s
36. H Solberg/C Menkerud (NOR) Ford Focus RS +41m34.2s

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