Østberg heads Stobart charge in sunny Spain

"It has been a lot more fun today"

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By Olivier Ferret

22 October 2011 - 20:48
Østberg heads Stobart charge in (...)

The M-Sport Stobart Ford crews of Mads Østberg, Henning Solberg and Matthew Wilson have consolidated their top ten positions after the second day of action at RACC Rally de España.

Last night’s flexi service saw the Cumbria-based squad’s Ford Fiesta RS World Rally Cars transformed into lower and more aggressive asphalt trim in order to tackle six Tarmac stages totalling 143.54 km set west of the rally base in Salou.

After contesting yesterday’s stages in gravel specification, the WRC crews were challenged with tackling the second longest stage of the season, the 45.97 km El Priorat stage, with no time to adapt to the different set-up.

With only 10.3 seconds separating Østberg and Kris Meeke going into Day 2, the 24-year-old driver was eager to overhaul the Northern Irish driver to move into sixth. Overheating brakes, however, hindered the Norwegian’s charge and the gap between the two drivers had stretched to 28.9 seconds by the end of Stage 9. The pedals and brake cylinders were changed during Service D and Østberg had a clear run through the repeat afternoon leg to finish the day in seventh place.

Team-mate Henning Solberg was feeling unwell during the day’s opening 71.77 km loop but the Norwegian driver and Austria’s Ilka Minor battled on to safeguard eighth place. A drama-free afternoon followed for Solberg who reported he was happy with the progress he was making piloting the Ford Fiesta RS WRC on asphalt.

Britain’s Matthew Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin adapted well to the change from gravel to asphalt for the second day of competition at the penultimate round of the WRC. The 24-year-old Englishman was hampered with heavy steering during the afternoon so the M-Sport Stobart service team are set to change the steering rack during tonight’s service. Wilson holds tenth overnight.

Mads Østberg: “I can tell you that it has been a lot more fun today compared to yesterday. Everything has been good after service and we have a lot more feeling with the brakes now. The car has been working well too and the set-up is very good. We have been trying to push some more but I didn’t want to overdo it as it would be silly to take any unnecessary risks. I’m very happy with the speed that we have at the moment. I feel that now we are at the same place as the Sunday in France so I will be looking to push more tomorrow and it will be interesting to see where that takes us.”

Henning Solberg: “I am happy. It’s been a good day apart from the fact I am feeling a bit sick with a bad head cold. We have worked hard throughout the day and we’ve not really had any problems. I know I am not the fastest man here but I’ve been doing a lot better. I am learning a lot on this rally, especially about the brakes which I usually have problems with on asphalt rallies. I got to grips with the Ford Fiesta S2000 last year and this year it is all about getting to grips with the Fiesta RS WRC which will just take a little bit of time. It’s slowly getting better and better for me so I cannot complain.”

Matthew Wilson: “It’s not been a bad day but I’m baffled with some of our times. I felt like the second pass through the El Priorat stage went better than the first run but the times didn’t reflect that. We were running wide on some sections so maybe we lost too many seconds by avoiding the cuts. The car has been OK but the steering was feeling heavy this afternoon and there have been some vibrations coming from the front right wheel so the boys will have to look at that during service. We only took one spare this afternoon so I backed off a bit on Stage 11 when the conditions were looking rougher. There were a few drivers with punctures today so it wasn’t worth the risk. We’re going to change the steering rack at service but I don’t think there will be any other major changes before tomorrow.”

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