Stobart’s Wilson in career-best fourth place
After day two in Portugal
Britain’s Matthew Wilson remains on track for his best ever result at Rally de Portugal after finishing the second full day of action in a career-best fourth place in his M-Sport Stobart run Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
The 24-year-old Cumbrian reported rough and extremely slippery road conditions on today’s repeat loop covering 148.10 km of competitive distance. However, after a quick opening stage Wilson moved up to fifth – 7.5 seconds ahead of his team-mate Henning Solberg.
Wilson moved further up the WRC leaderboard and into fourth when fellow Fiesta RS WRC driver Mikko Hirvonen suffered problems with rear suspension on the day’s closing 22.56 km stage.
With only four stages in Portugal remaining, just over 60 seconds separates Britain’s top WRC driver from securing his first ever podium position in the FIA World Rally Championship. Wilson finished fourth at 2007’s Rally Japan but fourth place would be the best ever result with current co-driver Scott Martin.
Norway’s Solberg and co-driver Ilka Minor had a difficult opening stage as the pair lost 12.2 seconds to Wilson due to lack of grip, knocking the pair back into sixth.
During Stage 11, the duo’s Fiesta RS WRC suffered power steering issues which was closely followed by a puncture on Stage 12. Despite a difficult afternoon, the M-Sport Stobart pairing battled on and pulled into the end of a difficult second day sixth overall.
Norway’s Mads Østberg returned to Rally de Portugal this morning in the team’s other Fiesta RS WRC, setting two top-five stage times despite a reported puncture on Stage 9. However, the 23-year-old was dealt a dose of bad luck after he lost his power steering on Stage 11, forcing the disappointed Norwegian to retire.
Østberg and Swedish co-driver Jonas Andersson will return to the rally for the second time tomorrow under SupeRally regulations.
Matthew Wilson said: “It’s been a difficult afternoon but we’re happy to be in fourth place. We were disappointed after we heard about Henning - sometimes it can work better to be in a battle with another driver because it forces you to push more and it helps with finding a good pace. Even though we’re quite a bit ahead of him now, we still must push tomorrow as a puncture could happen for us too and we need to ensure there is as big a gap as possible. The last stage today was one of roughest stages I’ve driven in a long time and I had to change my line to miss some big rocks that had been dragged onto the road. Obviously it’d be great to fight for a podium position but we must maintain concentration and try to push at the same time. Tomorrow is going to be all about finding the right balance.”
Henning Solberg said: “On a left hand corner, I ran straight over a big stone and got a puncture which cost us a lot of time – before then we were catching up with Matthew so, for sure, that is annoying. I’m not really surprised that we got a puncture - it is just so rough on the roads and it’s been made even worse this afternoon after the national rally have passed through as well. It’s been tough this afternoon but that is how it is – I am still here and luckily I did not lose a position after my puncture. Sixth would be good for the championship so I hope to get through tomorrow without any more problems.”
Mads Østberg said: “What can I say? It is not my weekend and there has been one problem after another but that is how it is in rallying. We said that when we returned today we had three main aims – to get some points for the team, to train to be a better driver and to get more experience driving on gravel. For sure, we had some valuable experience today but then our power steering went this afternoon so we had to retire. But we restart again tomorrow and try again. We hope that all our bad luck for the season will be on this rally so that the next few events will be perfect!”
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