Wilson high five for Stobart in Jordan
"This was a really tough rally."
Matthew Wilson scored his best finish of the 2010 FIA World Rally Championship season as he claimed fifth place at Jordan Rally for the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team.
The Cumbrian survived a tricky final day at the Middle Eastern event and took advantage of tactical changes in road position by other drivers to collect 10 valuable championship points. Team-mate Henning Solberg completed the arduous Dead Sea-based event in ninth overall after fighting back into the top ten following a costly puncture on Friday.
The Roman-built city of Jerash hosted the ceremonial start of Jordan Rally on Thursday in front of large crowds of enthusiastic and noisy Jordanian fans packed into the city’s ancient ruins. Starting crews faced a demanding mental and physical test with temperatures climbing towards 30 degrees as they entered the first day, which comprised of seven stages totalling 95.70km split into two loops of four tests.
Stobart’s Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor went fifth-fastest through the 15.34km SS1 Rumman Forest. Team-mates Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin also started well but lost a little time after having to drive round a big rock thrown onto the stage and were seventh-fastest. The Stobart crews then made good use of the tough Pirelli Scorpion tyre on the loose gravel surface to run in the top ten throughout the remaining morning’s tests and returned to the first service of the event with Solberg in seventh and Wilson eighth overall. Both Stobart M-Sport Ford Focus RS WRCs emerged from the afternoon’s loop having avoided making any major mistakes and consolidated their top ten positions, with Solberg still placed seventh overall and Wilson just behind in eighth.
The second full day of Jordan Rally on Friday was the longest of the rally despite having the least stages. Two loops of three tests saw drivers take on 138.28km of competitive distance – including the huge 41.45km Jordan River stage. The morning’s action opened with the 10.49km SS8 Suwayama located an incredible 420m below sea level – the lowest point on earth.
The Stobart crews both moved up one place in the overall leaderboard when BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s Mikko Hirvonen crashed out around 4.5km into the first stage of the day. Then Henning Solberg suffered a puncture to the rear right tyre after he hit rocks on the 41.45km SS10 Jordan River stage, which combined with subsequent brake issues cost him over six minutes and dropped him to 13th overall. Team-mate Matthew Wilson kept his cool in the ferocious heat of the Jordan Valley to move into sixth overall after his team-mate’s mishap.
The afternoon loop repeated the morning’s three stages and Henning Solberg fought back from his earlier dramas to go sixth-fastest through SS11 Suwayama. Then, despite struggling with his brakes again, repeated the feat on both the following stages to climb back into ninth overall by the end of the day. Matthew Wilson went seventh-fastest on the 17.20km SS12 Kafrain and 41.45km SS13 Jordan River tests and was happy to complete a very hard day in sixth overall.
The finale of Jordan Rally saw crews take on eight stages split over two identical loops totalling 105.50km of competitive distance, and finishing at the famous Jordan River Baptism Site. Henning Solberg’s day started badly as he picked up a puncture to his rear left tyre on the 14.16km SS14 Yakrut. The Norwegian managed to complete the stage without stopping, but his pace was reduced significantly. Matthew Wilson overcame a few sticky moments early in the morning and was promoted to fifth overall as a result of tactical manoeuvres by crews at the head of the field aiming at gaining better road position.
The two Stobart crews then carefully negotiated the afternoon repeat of the same four difficult stages with no dramas to ensure a double points finish for the Cumbrian squad.
A haul of sixteen points for the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team at Jordan Rally means the gap between the Cumbria-based squad and its Citroen Junior Team rivals occupying the third spot in the manufacturers’ championship stands at four points after three rounds.
Other rally news
Jari-Matti Latvala took second place for the BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team after an engrossing battle with Sebastien Loeb on the final day. After crashing out on Friday team-mate Mikko Hirvonen returned under SuperRally rules to claim two manufacturers’ championship points for the Ford works outfit.
Federico Villagra and Jorge Perez Companc took seventh overall for the Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team to secure the second consecutive points finish of the Argentine team’s 2010 campaign.
Matthew Wilson: “This was a really tough rally. It’s a huge challenge with the combination of the heat and the nature of the stages. They are very slippery and if you make the least little mistake you get punished for it by the rocks, there’s just no margin for error. The last morning was probably the hardest of the lot and we had a few moments where we got away with it a little bit. To finish with no major problems and come away with fifth place is a good result for us after what happened in Mexico. We enjoyed it and now we can look forward to Turkey with confidence.”
Henning Solberg: “I am happy to get to the end after all our problems. The car felt good and I hoped I would be fast, but we couldn’t get the times we wanted like in Mexico. Then we dropped too much time after the puncture on Saturday so the only thing to do was try to get some points. That is how it is in rally sometimes so we have to move on to the next round now and see what we can do.”
Malcolm Wilson: “It will be a confidence boost for Matthew to have taken a strong finish from a very difficult event. Now has established a good platform on which he can look to improve on his overall pace at the next rally. Henning was a little bit unlucky with a couple of punctures costing him a lot of time, but it was a good effort from him to make sure he got back into the points for the Stobart team.”
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