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Rally of Turkey WRC (P) - 13-15 Jun 08

Posted: June 17, 2008 4:42 PM - 4797 Hits

Round 8 - 2008 World Rally Championship

SWRT head into summer break confident of development programme

Posted: June 17, 2008 4:42 PM

At the finish of the Rally of Turkey, Petter Solberg and Phil Mills sealed sixth position overall, keeping the Subaru World Rally Team in third position overall in the Manufacturers’ Championship. As importantly, with two incredibly tricky rallies completed in the new Impreza WRC2008, the team are confident about now putting the many lessons learned into practice during the six-week break in the WRC calendar.

Both the Acropolis and Turkish rallies have been demanding to the extreme for what is still a very new car. As was the plan, the crew now have a six-week gap without a WRC event in which to consolidate knowledge from these first two rallies. Having identified various areas for fine-tuning, the type of which are only truly demonstrated in the heat of competition, the feverish pace of work will continue in the UK in preparation for Finland in August.

“We’ve successfully completed the first stage of our development programme for our new car and are really happy with the progress we’ve made to date” said David Lapworth, SWRT Technical Director. “We are in a very good position to really take advantage of the season break and accelerate the second phase of the programme, which is using the competitive experience we now have with the car to improve it step-by-step. We will also conduct asphalt testing for the three sealed surface events in the second half of the season. With a brand new car we’ve shown promising performance, and we’re feeling confident of our competitiveness for the rest of the year.”

Having successfully introduced the Impreza WRC2008 to the ultra-competitive world stage, the focus now shifts to realising the machine’s vast potential. Glimmers of this have shone brightly already, demonstrating the degree of pace capable of winning stages already.

Indeed, on the longest stage of the Rally of Turkey, at a gruelling 31km, Solberg attacked hard to overcome a start-line stall and become the fastest man for much of the latter section of the stage. This was followed by a series of turns of stage-winning pace from the Norwegian, pushing to see what was achievable on the treacherous loose gravel roads.

Similarly, feeling bolstered by changes in the midday service, Chris Atkinson and Stéphane Prévot recorded the third fastest stage time on the penultimate test. “This weekend has not been bad at all, no real problems” said Petter Solberg. “On lots of stages we’ve had fastest splits and been faster than anyone else which is very good. The car is very reliable, and it’s been a difficult past two rallies but the engineers have learned a lot and have a very good strategy plan. The guys know exactly where to work on the car now so I think it will be no problem to find a lot more in this car. It definitely has so much potential, so we just need to work to make the most of that. We still have some work to do to make it fast on every stage”

“Ok, it’s obviously disappointing to have had the small delays that we have had this weekend, but the team are learning all the time with the car” said Chris Atkinson. “It’s not been an easy rally and the roads are very abrasive, but it’s a good challenge. The long stages today were particularly tough, but we’re out there testing so it works well. Petter’s car had a perfect run, so it’s just bad luck for us. Now we have a six-week break so we’re confident of some big steps forward and looking good for Finland.”

Stobart crews on fire in roasting Turkish conditions

Posted: June 17, 2008 4:40 PM

An event of mixed fortunes has seen the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team close in on third place in the FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers after round eight in Turkey. Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud were the stars of the show finishing the Rally of Turkey in a well deserved fifth position overall.

Backing up the Norwegians with yet another solid points finish were Brits Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin who maintained a points scoring position throughout the event to finish seventh. This now sees Wilson ninth in the Drivers’ Championship.

It was not such a fortunate event for team-mates Gigi Galli/Giovanni Bernacchini who retired overnight before beginning today’s final leg with Galli falling ill. Under advice from the team’s doctor Galli decided not to start today due to exhaustion and dehydration caused by the intense heat and demanding rally conditions over the past two days and has been advised to rest and rehydrate for the safety of his own personal health.

After day 1, and a fastest stage win on the final test, Solberg was on top of his game to slot in front of BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver Jari-Matti Latvala but had a big job on Saturday running second on the road. During Friday night’s flexi-service Solberg’s team of technicians changed the gearbox in his car which affected the way it felt to drive and this took some getting used to on Saturday; but the Norwegian’s performance over the day was outstanding and drew praise from the Stobart Team Principal.

Twenty-one-year-old Wilson has continued to show his impressive speed by finishing in the points for the fourth time this year. The youngster was constantly setting stage times within the top-eight with the most impressive coming on the 22.4 kilometre Phaselis 1 test on Friday where he crossed the flying finish as the third fastest driver.

Galli was running hot and despite a small fire to the rear bumper of his Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC07 on day 1 he was smoking through the opening day taking three stage wins. Unfortunately a turbo boost valve problem on the 27.36 kilometre Silyon 2 stage lost the Italian star four minutes with an extensive lack of power yesterday dropping him back to eighth before his retirement through illness.

Stobart crews again relied heavily on information from championship supporters Pirelli who kept them out of trouble in Greece with minimal reports of punctures and tyre-damage and it was again the same in Turkey with only a handful of slow punctures reported over the four days of pounding competition.

All three main days of Rally Turkey took crews to the west of Rally HQ which again this year was based in the resort town of Kemer in the Anatolian region. Stages were rough, rocky and some of the most technical on gravel this year as crews worked their way over 360 kilometres through 19 demanding stages.

With a six week break in the WRC calendar the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team will be knuckling down into some summer training and development before returning to the championship at the end of July for the next round, Neste Oil Rally Finland.

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Gigi Galli said:
“It is a very disappointing end to a tough event that we started really well on. The first day was fantastic for me and we managed the performance well and found a good compromise between preserving the tyres and keeping a fast speed; indeed we would have been leading for the whole day without the time penalty. But the days were long and hard and I was totally exhausted on Saturday evening and needed some treatment from the doctor for dehydration. I didn’t feel any better on Sunday and it wasn’t possible or safe for me to continue.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
“I’m very, very happy; fifth place here is great and I have been so pleased with my driving. It’s been a tough rally and we have had to manage the tyres well for the whole time. The first day felt great and it was a good feeling to set a fastest time. Then we had to make some changes to the car and the feeling just wasn’t as good as the first day. But we kept the pace up and got into an exciting battle with Dani Sordo on the last day. This rally has been a big challenge with tough conditions but to be in the top-five and collect more points for me and the team is fantastic.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
“This has definitely been one of our strongest performances we have had pace-wise and to come here, make new pace notes and set good times right from the very first stage is great. We have taken things step-by-step this year and to have two strong finishes in a row, in Greece and now Turkey, is very encouraging and helps a lot with my confidence for the next event. Again, this was a long, hot rally and my physical training has really proved its worth.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“The Stobart drivers have really shone on this seriously demanding event. Gigi and Henning both set fastest times and the team have closed the championship gap to Subaru. Matthew has been brilliant here, he has really knuckled down and put in a strong performance, again picking up more driver points. It’s been a disappointing end to the rally for Gigi and its just shows how tough and physically demanding this sport is. All of the guys deserve a well-earned break over the summer now after a recent series of strong results.”

Stobart Group CEO Andrew Tinkler said:
“I know Matthew and Scott have been training hard recently for the marathon charity bike ride and their fitness has been a big help this weekend. The Stobart crews have pushed hard in the tough conditions and more fastest times from Henning and Gigi shows the talent and speed we have in the team. I know the second half of the season will bring us more great results as the guys continue to improve.”


Posted: June 17, 2008 4:38 PM

Munchi’s motor to top-10 finishes and more manufacturer points

Posted: June 17, 2008 4:23 PM

The Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team has finished this weekend’s Rally of Turkey with both drivers in the points on this eighth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Leading the way for the team were Munchi’s regulars Federico Villagra/Jorge Pérez Companc who finished one place off a drivers’ point in ninth position. The result sees Villagra maintain his position in the top-ten standings of the Driver’s Championship after what has been a series of recent strong points finishes.

Competing on his first ‘proper’ event in a World Rally Car with full reconnaissance under his belt was Barry Clark. Together with new co-driver Paul Nagle the pair put in a sterling debut effort to finish an incredible 10th place.

The Scotsman’s plan from the start was to finish every stage to gain maximum experience with the car and gather crucial set-up information on the rough gravel stages. Clark did just that, plus a little more, when he picked up the final manufacturer point for the Munchi’s squad.

Villagra has kept his nose clean throughout the event to be rewarded with another impressive finish. The only issues for the Argentine were a cracked intercooler on day 1 and the loss of full use of the brakes on Saturday’s 22.4 kilometre Phaselis 2 test where he dropped over one and a half minutes to the leaders.

It has been a perfect start to Clark’s three-event campaign and he ended up setting some stage times that were under two seconds a kilometre off the vastly more experienced top WRC crews.

The 25-year-old mastered all 19 special stages as he gained invaluable experience in the Munchi’s Ford Focus RS WRC 07.

The Munchi’s team have now strengthened their position in the Manufacturers’ Championship as they extend their gap over the Suzuki team by another three points. The crews here have coped extremely well with 360 kilometres of demanding action on the hot, Turkish stages and both have stayed out of trouble with consistently improving stage times.

Munchi’s now have four events remaining in their 10-round campaign and the next rally, Neste Rally Finland, sees Luis Pérez Companc joining fellow Argentine Villagra as they take the challenge of the ultra-fast Finnish roads.

Clark will next be in action on the ‘rally of 1000 corners’. This sees a switch from gravel to asphalt for the young Scot as he tackles the Rallye de France-Tour de Corse in October.

Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team Driver Federico Villagra said:
“We started off this rally with everything feeling good. The car was perfect and my feeling with it was great but my times were slower than I thought they would be. But I knew it would be a tough event and didn’t want to push anymore than I should. Then the mechanics made some changes to the roll bar and it transformed the handling.

“The times improved towards the second half of the rally and by the final day there was no real reason to push hard. We had reached a good overall position and I concentrated on not making any mistakes. It was important for me to get more driver points here and, together with our second driver for this event Barry Clark, we have strengthened our position in the manufacturers’ championship.”

Munchi’s Ford World Rally Team Driver Barry Clark said:
“This has been a dream rally for me. We set out with the intention of getting to the end and to finish inside the top-10 is amazing. The plan was to stay neat and tidy and that’s exactly how it went and I think that really was the key to our success.

“We did have a few scares though on the final stage when the water temperature light came on and we hit a large rock which took a chunk out of the wheel but luckily we made it back to the finish without any dramas. This result has helped immensely with my experience and confidence and it’s highlighted that I need to make my pacenotes more accurate with the faster speeds of these amazing world rally cars.”

Ford's Turkish delight as Hirvonen and Latvala seal 1-2 finish

Posted: June 17, 2008 4:22 PM

Master tactics paid dividends for BP Ford World Rally Team as it claimed a 1-2 finish on a thrilling Rally of Turkey today. Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen claimed their second win of the FIA World Rally Championship season in a Ford Focus RS World Rally Car to move back into the lead of the drivers standings by three points. Team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila were just 7.9sec behind in another Focus RS as Ford extended its lead in the manufacturers' series to nine points.

The maximum points haul enabled Ford to create rallying history by scoring points on 100 consecutive rallies, a feat never achieved since the WRC was launched in 1973.

After dominating Friday's opening leg to hold first and second, Hirvonen and Latvala deliberately eased their pace in the final few metres to drop down the leaderboard to gain better road conditions yesterday. A lower start position meant they avoided the huge disadvantage of being first and second on roads covered by slippery loose gravel. Instead, they benefited from the cleaning process of the cars ahead, who swept stones from the surface to leave a cleaner and faster line on which to attack.

Ford's Finns rocketed back to first and second yesterday morning and attacked hard to build as big a lead as possible over championship rival Sébastien Loeb, who swept the roads, in third. Hirvonen and Latvala had the unwanted 'cleaning' role today, but the buffer was big enough to hold off a determined charge from Loeb during the final 31.03km speed test to claim the team's second 1-2 of the season.

This eighth round of the season was based in Kemer, a bustling holiday resort on Turkey's southern coast. Drivers tackled 19 special stages covering 360.12km in the Anatolian mountains which tower above the town. Air temperatures topped 34ºC while the thermometer reached 48ºC on the rocky gravel roads, which combined to provide a tough test for cars and Pirelli's Scorpion tyres.

A delighted Hirvonen described the weekend as 'amazing'. "I promised Malcolm Wilson I would lead the championship going into my home rally in Finland next month and I am. It was an incredibly hard weekend for drivers, cars and tyres and a great battle with Jari-Matti, which I'm so happy to win. It was the right moment for a win because we struggled on the last round in Greece and this is perfect timing. It feels very special to beat a four-time world champion in a straight fight," he said.

"Our tactics worked so well and I didn't panic this morning when I was first on the road and had to sweep the stages. This is my best result because it was such a big team effort. I was so nervous and drove so carefully in the final stage to preserve my tyres. It looks like it will be an exciting championship battle in the second half of the season. Now I just want to go home and see my sons," said 27-year-old Hirvonen, who felt ill throughout the rally and has been unable to eat.

Latvala was happy with second after losing almost a minute with two opening day punctures. "I came here wanting a top three finish so I'm pleased I was able to fight for victory. I lacked experience of these roads but that wasn't as big a disadvantage as I thought. We played good tactics and it was a big risk, but a good decision. I've learned to keep my driving tidy. I was kind on my tyres for the first half of the final stage and that paid off. This has given a major boost to my confidence," he said.

BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson collected the Abu Dhabi Spirit of the Rally Award on behalf of the team and presented it to Ford of Europe chairman Lewis Booth, a keen spectator here during the weekend. "Tactics won in the end and what our two young drivers did this weekend was nothing short of special. It was a brave decision to drop time on Friday but it proved the right one. I'm proud of the drivers and the team and it's a great way to end the first half of the season. It was the drive of Mikko's life and it's fantastic to lead both series going into the mid-season break. Days don't get much better than this," said Wilson.

Ford of Europe's motorsport director Mark Deans added: "The consistency required in achieving 100 consecutive points finishes is remarkable as the WRC is the toughest competition in motorsport for production-based cars. It demanded an outstanding blend of speed, strength and reliability from the Focus RS World Rally Car as well as some sterling performances from the drivers behind the wheel. It was a perfect weekend for the team and a great weekend for Ford, with six Focus cars in the top 10."

News from our Rivals
Sébastien Loeb (Citroen) took third but slipped to second in the drivers' standings with team-mate Dani Sordo claiming fourth. Sordo moved ahead of Stobart driver Henning Solberg (Ford) on the opening stage and the gap between the pair was just 8.1sec at the finish. Petter Solberg (Subaru) rounded off the top six ahead of Stobart driver Matthew Wilson (Ford). Ninth and 10th for Munchi's drivers Federico Villagra and Barry Clark (both Ford) was enough for the final manufacturers' points.

Next round
The championship pauses for a summer break and returns with Rally Finland, one of the year's classic events, on 31 July - 3 August. The gravel rally is based in Jyväskylä.


Posted: June 17, 2008 4:19 PM

1. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Ford Focus RS 4h42m07.1s
2. J-M Latvala/M Anttila FIN Ford Focus RS +7.9s
3. S Loeb/D Elena F Citroën C4 +25.7s
4. D Sordo/M Marti E Citroën C4 +2m25.6s
5. H Solberg/C Menkerud N Ford Focus RS +2m33.7s
6. P Solberg/P Mills N Subaru Impreza +2m48.2s
7. M Wilson/S Martin GB Ford Focus RS +4m24.2s
8. C Rautenbach/D Senior ZIM Citroën C4 +7m46.7s
9. F Villagra/J Pérez Companc RA Ford Focus RS +9m34.1s
10. B Clark/P Nagle GB Ford Focus RS +14m48.8s

Entry List and Details

Posted: January 28, 2008 10:41 PM

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