Stobart focus on strong finish in Wales
Wales Rally GB - Preview
Britain’s leading FIA World Rally Championship pairing of Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin will be flying the flag for Great Britain at their home event of Wales Rally GB next week.
The iconic event will also be the last outing for the team’s Ford Focus RS World Rally Car that has racked up an impressive seven podium finishes for the Cumbrian-based squad since their entry into the WRC in 2006.
At just 23-years-old, Wilson will be taking part in the rally for the seventh time, and for the fifth time with co-driver Martin. So the pair have plenty experience of tackling the tricky Welsh stages.
With 68 points to his name already this season the young Briton has delivered a strong performance throughout the year but is keen to finish the year with a flourish and aims to match his best performance of the season - fifth place at Rally Jordan.
Wilson’s preparations ahead of his home event have included a trip to the inaugural Rallyfest North Wales. The festival, which was staged at Conwy and Llandudno, was organised to promote Wales Rally GB and gave motorsport fans a taster of what they can expect to see next week. Wilson performed live for fans in his Ford Focus RS WRC and an official reported the event was attended by over 14,000 people.
Henning Solberg and co-driver Stephane Prévot are the other nominated point-scorers for Stobart M-Sport Ford in Wales. The Norwegian pilot finished fifth at last year’s event and will be aiming for a similar performance at next week’s final round of the championship.
Joining the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team for the first time will be three-times Chinese National Rally Champion Liu Chao Dong and Australian co-driver Anthony McLoughlin.
Wales Rally GB will mark Dong’s fourth appearance in the WRC but will be the first time that a Chinese driver has driven a World Rally Car in the championship. Dong’s best result to date was at 2008’s Rally New Zealand when he finished 20th overall but the 25-year-old from Chongqing will be aiming to better this position for his Chinese fans next week.
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said: “I love to finish each WRC season on home territory - the British fans are fantastic and I always aim to go out there and produce a really good performance. I’ve really enjoyed this season and I’ve definitely learned a lot. It’s sad this Wales will be the last time I’ll be competing at a WRC event in the [Ford] Focus RS WRC – it’s like the end of an era. I remember some of the first Focus cars with Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae behind the wheel and it feels like I’ve grown up with the car. Next week I’ve just got to go there and enjoy myself as much as I can. I’d like to get as close to the podium as possible – whether that’s a fourth, fifth or sixth I don’t mind but it’d be good to finish the season and my last WRC event driving the Ford Focus RS WRC on a high.”
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said: “I had my best ever finish in Wales last year so I’m hoping that this year will be just as good – it would be nice to finish in the top five again. It will be sad to say goodbye to the [Ford] Focus RS WRC – it’s been a great car and I’ve had four podium finishes whilst competing with it so, for sure, I’ve had some great memories. But next year is an interesting time for the WRC and I think the new cars will make it even more exciting for the spectators. We’ve had a really fantastic season, as has the team, and it’s important to finish well in Wales for my sponsors.”
Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Liu Chao Dong said: “I’m very excited for next week’s rally. I was a bit unlucky on my last two WRC events but I am looking forward to Wales Rally GB as it is such an iconic event. I had a test at M-Sport in the Ford Focus RS WRC last month – it was very good but extremely different to a Group N car which is what I am used to driving. It had so much power but there is a lot I need to learn about the car - I am looking forward to getting to know more at Wales Rally GB. We did the recce for this rally in 2007 so I have some knowledge of the event and what to expect – it’s not completely unknown to me but I think it could be tricky because of the weather which will makes the roads very slippery.”
Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said: “It has been another successful season for the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team and we’ve had some fantastic highlights this year. It was a real joy to have the legendary Juha Kankkunen join Matthew and Henning for Rally Finland in July and it was fantastic to see François Duval back in the squad for Rallye Deutschland. The team strive to offer opportunities to drivers across the globe and we are delighted that China’s Liu Chao Dong will join us for this year’s Wales Rally GB. Liu Chao Dong visited M-Sport last month to test the[Ford] Focus RS WRC and the team were very impressed with the pace and times that he was setting whilst here. Wales Rally GB is going to be a huge challenge but Dong is a very focused individual with years of experience competing in the Chinese Rally Championship (CRC). I have little doubt that Henning, Matthew and Dong’s commitment and dedication will pay off when they tackle the final round of the FIA World Rally Championship next week.”
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