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Stobart ready for arabian adventure in Jordan

One of the most extreme races in the championship



26 March 2010 - 14:28
Stobart ready for arabian adventure (...)

Matthew Wilson and Henning Solberg are targeting strong results at Jordan Rally as the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team head into the third round of the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship.

The Stobart team-mates impressed at the Middle Eastern event when it last featured on the WRC calendar in 2008, claiming fourth and fifth place, and both want to make a big impact when they return to the Dead Sea-based rally next weekend.

Jordan is one of the most extreme races in the championship - as drivers are forced to deal with gruellling kilometres of sandy gravel, temperatures topping 40 degrees and a variety of altitudes.

The worst rain in the kingdom for 20 years recently rendered much of the 2010 Jordan Rally course impassable, but a tremendous joint national effort by the state meant that none of the stages had to be cancelled.

The rally’s HQ will once again be next to the Dead Sea, around 50 kilometres from the Jordanian capital of Amman, and instead of finishing on the Sunday as traditional in the WRC it will finish on the Saturday to coincide with the Islamic holiday.

The event will begin on Thursday April 1 from the historic city of Jerash - one of the largest and best preserved sites of Roman architecture in the world. Competitors will then travel a short distance to the forests of Rumman for the first of seven stages totalling 95.70km and encompassing the earth’s lowest land point - 400 metres below sea level.

While day two’s itinerary includes only six stages it is the longest of the rally and also features the longest stage – the monster 41.45km Jordan River test. The Stobart crews will have to make best use of the durable Pirelli Scorpion gravel tyres on their Ford Focus RS WRCs to help them tackle one of the championship’s toughest stages twice in the same day.

The final day of the rally on Saturday takes place over two loops of four stages totalling 105.50km. The relatively compact tests consist mainly of fast, man-made gravel roads through the desert, and will see the event brought to a biblical ending on the 10.83km SS21 Baptism Site.

Stobart’s Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor will be keen to replicate the sort of performance they turned in at the previous round of the championship in Mexico. The pair were in fine form and posted a string of top-three stage times on the second day of the event despite brake problems. Having finished in sixth place they will want to play a part in the Ford fightback in Jordan and push towards the podium positions.

Team-mates Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin are also fired up to tackle the searing desert heat in Jordan. Their previous outing at Rally Mexico was derailed after an off early on the second day forced them to retire and return under SuperRally rules on the final leg. The young Stobart duo from Cumbria will want to avoid any similar incidents and show the kind of pace that almost saw them snatch fourth place the last time they visited Jordan.

The Stobart M-Sport Rally Team currently lies in fourth position in FIA Manufacturers’ Championship with 28 points, just four behind its rival the Citroen Junior Team. The Stobart crews will aim to try and come away from Jordan with enough points to ensure the tables are turned and the Cumbria-based squad has control over the final podium position in the championship table.

Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said: “Jordan should be a really exciting event and I’m looking forward to going back there. It was a good rally for us the last time and we did a great job until a puncture cost us fourth place on the last day. The route is pretty similar so we know what we’re up against, although it will be interesting once we get out there to see if the recent floods have affected the roads much. We’re going from one extreme to the other after the high-altitudes in Mexico to well below sea level in Jordan, but that should mean we don’t have the same issues that cost us a bit of power there. We’re going to be pushing hard to get as many points as possible for Stobart.”

Stobart M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said: “I think Jordan will be a good event for us. We found a good setting on the car in Mexico and got into a good rhythm, so we want to continue like that in Jordan. The car was very good so we won’t change much about it, but there should be big difference in power from Mexico which will help. It will be hard to improve on the fourth place I got the last time I drove there in 2008, but we will try hard to get another good result for the Stobart team and keep our good run of form going.”

Stobart M-Sport Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson said: “The Stobart team performed very well at Jordan Rally in 2008 and both crews should be able to show the same kind of pace again this year. The conditions make it a demanding event for the drivers and the co-drivers, so they will need to be really focused in order to get the best out of themselves and the Ford Focus RS WRC. It’s a great opportunity for the Stobart team to go third in the manufacturers’ championship if the crews can secure good points finishes.”


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