Stobart crews aim to make their mark in Mexico
Solberg happy to return to the rally gravel
The Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team will travel to Rally Mexico looking to fly high in the second round of the World Rally Championship. The Cumbria-based team will field two Ford Focus RS WRCs in the high-altitude plains of Central America piloted by Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin and Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor.
After both crews got their 2010 WRC campaigns off to a solid start in snowy Sweden by securing points finishes, the Stobart team will be looking to repeat the feat in the fiesta atmosphere of Rally Mexico.
The event is returning to the WRC calendar after being left out in 2009 due to the new rotation system, and is likely to be a big hit with drivers and fans. The rally will form part of the official bicentennial celebrations of the state of Guanajuato in which it is based, and the organisers have pulled out all the stops to ensure maximum entertainment both on and off the stages.
In addition to the high-speed gravel tests on the plains familiar to Rally Mexico, there will also be a new street stage run in the centre of León that will allow huge crowds to get even closer to the action.
After kicking off with a colourful and noisy opening ceremony in Guanajuato on Thursday evening, the real action will begin on Friday when crews face 137.24km of competitive stage distance. After the opening three stages crews will return to León for the first pass over the Coca-Cola Street Stage, before tackling another loop of three stages in the afternoon and two runs of the Super Special Stage in the León Autodrome.
Day two will be the longest of the rally for the crews, as they take on 158.82km competitive stage distance. As well as repeats of the fan-friendly Coca-Cola Street Stage and the León Autodrome Super Special Stage, the day’s itinerary also includes the longest stage of the rally, the 29.90km Ibarrilla test.
Competitors will the face a short, sharp sprint to the finish on the final leg with only 58.54km of competitive stage distance to cover. However, it will present crews with a real mixed challenge as the four tests will vary in distance significantly, being 29.13km, 7.05km, 17.94km and 4.42km respectively.
With a combination of high-altitude testing engine performance to the limit and some rocky stages, the Stobart crews will have to temper their pace with caution in order to avoid any mishaps.
However, with the help of Pirelli’s tough Scorpion gravel tyre both Solberg and Wilson will be hoping to up the ante and improve on their last visit to Mexico in 2008, where they finished fifth and sixth overall.
“We got a good result in Sweden but I don’t find driving on snow as much fun as it used to be, so I will be happy to be back on gravel in Mexico. The last time I drove there I broke the suspension on my car after hitting a rock on only the second stage, but still managed to fight back and challenge for fourth place against Mikko [Hirvonen] before a puncture near the end meant I had to take fifth. It can be a difficult event to drive on but I think we can improve on our last result as we should have good road position. The organisers have made a lot of changes to the rally and it looks like it could be a perfect event this year for drivers and fans.”
“I’m really looking forward to Mexico. It looks like most of the route is the same as the last time we were there in 2008, so that should make it a bit easier to get up to speed. It’s been a good rally for us in the past. Hopefully we can build on the start we made in Sweden. It was good to get some points there on what was a really difficult rally, but we want to do even better in Mexico. We’re moving from a rally where the conditions helped the car run at optimum levels to one where the high altitude really sucks the life out of it. You have to take the reduction in power into account and some of the stages are pretty rough so you need to watch out for punctures too, but these differences in events are what rallying is all about and it’s a great challenge.”
Malcolm Wilson, team principal
“Rally Mexico has the potential to be a very good event for the Stobart team. Both Henning and Matthew made a solid start to their championship in Sweden and both have performed well at Rally Mexico in the past, so there is no reason why they can’t go out and get a top result again this time. It’s a tough rally in some ways but also an exciting one for the drivers and fans, so I’m sure both Stobart crews will want to rise to the challenge.”
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