Desert Drama for Stobart’s Solberg
An extremely tough morning at Jordan Rally saw Stobart M-Sport Ford’s Henning Solberg drop out of the top ten after suffering a puncture. However, team-mate Matthew Wilson stayed cool as the heat built up in the Arabian kingdom, and the young Cumbrian moved up to sixth overall as a result of Solberg’s misfortune.

The second full day of the event started in clear, sunny conditions by the banks of the Dead Sea as the crews headed into 138.28km of competitive stage distance in the unforgiving desert terrain.

The morning’s opening loop of three stages kicked off with the 10.49km SS8 Suwayama, which is officially the lowest sporting venue on earth as it plunges to 420m below sea level. The Stobart crews of Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin and Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor reported good conditions on the stages but also that they were struggling to find a rhythm on the featureless crests and corners of the rocky desert roads.

Despite having to work hard to find their best form the Ford Focus RS WRCs of the Stobart team each moved up one spot in the overall standings after BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver Mikko Hirvonen crashed out of the rally around 4.5km into the first stage of the day.

Solberg enjoyed the following 17.20km SS9 Kafrain and posted the sixth-fastest time through the test, with Wilson following closely behind in seventh ahead of former Formula One world champion Kimi Raikkönen.

However, the Norwegian’s luck ran out on the mammoth 41.45km SS10 Jordan River stage. Around 2km into the test he suffered a puncture to his rear right tyre after hitting some rocks, and despite trying to carry on he and co-driver Ilka Minor were forced to stop and change the wheel. Once they got going again they also suffered from issues with their brakes, leading them to drop over six minutes by the time they got back to midday service and fall to 13th position in the overall standings.

Matthew Wilson did make it through the Jordan River stage unscathed, although he reported that an engine misfire seemed to cost him power and hampered his progress.

The afternoon’s Jordan Rally schedule will see the crews repeat the same stages covered in the morning, but with the temperature soaring and road conditions expected to have changed after the opening pass they could face a different challenge.

Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
“I was really struggling to get good times this morning. I don’t know what was wrong because there were no problems with the car, I was surprised not to be going faster. Then I went sideways into some rocks while going very fast and got a puncture which made us lose a lot of time. It is a very difficult rally but we still have plenty of stages left to fight back and get some points.”

Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
“The first couple of stages this morning were much more difficult than they were the last time we were here, the surface has changed a bit but it was also really difficult to pick out any features to help with the driving line. Then in the third stage we had a slight misfire which seemed to upset the power delivery from the engine. Not quite sure what it is but it shouldn’t be too hard to fix in service. I think the stages will be a lot cleaner in the afternoon so hopefully we can have a good second pass over them.”

Leaderboard after SS10
1. J-M Latvala/M Anttila FIN Ford Focus RS 1h56min50.4sec
2. S Loeb/D Elena FRA Citroen C4 +4.7sec
3. S Ogier/J Ingrassa FRA Citroen C4 +9.4sec
4. P Solberg/P Mills NOR Citroen C4 +13.9sec
5. D Sordo/M Marti ESP Citroen C4 +34.3sec
6. M Wilson/S Martin GBR Ford Focus RS +3m17.9sec
7. F Villagra/Pérez Companc ARG Ford Focus RS +4m.26.3sec
8. K Raikkönen/K Lindstrom FIN Citroen C4 +5m.46.7sec
9. X Pons/A Haro SPA Ford Fiesta S2000 +7m.12.2sec
10. B Sousa/N Rodrigues POR Ford Fiesta S2000 +7m20.3sec
13. H Solberg/I Minor NOR Ford Focus RS +8m34.3sec

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