New challenges for Stobart team
- 15th January 2007, 8:29am
The traditional season-opener has moved its base from Monaco to Valence, in an attempt to secure a greater amount of snow and ice on the already treacherous asphalt mountain roads. Matthew Wilson and Michael Orr, Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila, and Henning Solberg and Cato Menkerud, will all face an additional challenge to the slippery conditions; rallying at night-time.
It’s also the first time all three drivers will have driven their Ford Focus WRC06 rally-cars on tarmac. On the driver’s side, however, is the fact that they are actually competing with this car, as it clinched the 2006 Manufacturers’ Championship just a few months ago.
The organisers have re-written the rule-book, starting the event on a Thursday evening and running two stages in the dark. The event now finishes on Saturday evening, but there will be an exciting Super Special stage taking place around part of the Monaco Formula 1 circuit, purely as a display of these awesome world rally cars and drivers to the ever-discerning public.
For 19-year-old Wilson, it will be his last event as a teenager, and his second attempt at this tricky rally. Monte Carlo is known for its changeable road and weather conditions and tyre choice is often a compromise. Wilson is keen to improve upon his 15th position in 2006 but he knows that the roads and conditions are ready to catch out the unwary.
It is also going to be a massive challenge for Latvala. This will be his first attempt at Monte Carlo in a powerful world rally car, having competed in a Production class vehicle last season. He’s ready for the challenge though, after an excellent fourth place finish on Wales Rally GB, the last event of the 2006 season.
Norwegian, Solberg, is also looking to improve upon his Monte Carlo result from last year, with retirement on the very last stage causing disappointment on an otherwise impressive performance. Last year’s event was Solberg’s first ever tarmac rally and in addition to learning the specifics of sealed-surface competition, he also managed to set a third-fastest stage time.
Stobart M-Sport Ford Team driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:
“The Monte Carlo rally is one of the toughest events of the season because of the varying conditions. I have competed on the rally two times before but this is the first time in a world rally car. I think I will need to be careful, it will be very easy to go slightly too hard and that’s not what I want to do. It will be a big challenge for me and I really want to finish this event to get the season off to a good start.”
Stobart M-Sport Ford Team driver Henning Solberg said:
“I am very excited and looking forward to this year and it really is a sense of my career moving forward. I was happy with how this rally went for me last year, it was my first rally on asphalt and I set some really good times; but it was very disappointing to retire on the very last stage. I’m looking forward to the rally, but I really want to try and settle in and get used to the car. It’s my first rally with the new car and the new team and I think if things go well together, it will be very good for the future”
Stobart M-Sport Ford Team driver Matthew Wilson said:
“Monte Carlo is one of those very difficult events, definitely one to be endured rather than be enjoyed. It’s normally a bit of a lottery with tyre choice and usually a compromise at every service. I’m looking forward to getting Monte out of the way and try and start my season in Sweden, I can’t really predict how things will go on this first rally but I’m glad to be back competing again after the end-of-season break. I’ve been relaxing over Christmas and preparing myself for this season and I can’t wait to get back into the ’06 spec car.”
Stobart M-Sport Ford Team principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“Last year was a toe in the water for the Stobart team and I think we have a very strong line-up this season. We have nominated Henning and Jari-Matti for points and this should take some pressure off Matthew and let him concentrate on improving his own performances. As normal in Monte Carlo, the weather should play a big part, but if the drivers remain focused and concentrate, I think it’s possible for all of them to have some good results here.”
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