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Henning Solberg produced a stunning display over the opening Super Special Stages of Repco Rally Australia to grab second place overall going into the first full day of the rally. 

The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver was pitted against his team mate Matthew Wilson on the high-octane tour of Murwillumbah and thrilled the large crowd that turned out to watch the opening two 2.55km runs through the streets of the town.

With the Ford Focus RS WRCs set up on gravel tyres for the rally, the Tarmac Super Special course was particularly tricky and slippery for all of the 40 starting crews, but Solberg and co-driver Cato Menkerud put on a scintillating display, setting the second fastest time on SSS1 and third fastest time on SSS2.
Wilson suffered launch problems at the start of the first stage losing valuable seconds, but had a better run on SSS2 and goes into Day One lying in seventh place overall.  Both Stobart drivers enjoyed their shakedown earlier today as they were joined by television personalities Daryl Beattie and Ed Leigh, but are keen to get tomorrow’s stages underway.  With accurate pacenotes for the new-look event crucial, recce was hard work for the crews who are looking forward to testing themselves on the 101.69kms of high-speed stages west of Rally HQ in Kingscliff.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said:
“After being in Australia for nearly a week it’s really good to get the rally started.   It was great to see so many people out in Murwillumbah for the autograph session and to watch the Super Specials.  It was pretty slippery out there tonight but it was good fun as well.  We’re really enjoying it so far.  The recce was hard work and took a lot of concentration because it’s a completely new rally.   But the stages are fast and good drivers’ stages so I am looking forward to getting out there tomorrow.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said:
“I really enjoy the fast rallies and Rally Australia has some of the best stages I’ve seen in the championship so far this season.  I’m looking forward to the rally as I’ve got good road position tomorrow, but as there’s a chance of rain I need to make the most of the dry conditions in the morning when the guys in front of me are sweeping the road.   I enjoyed the autograph session this afternoon and it was really good to see so many people out in Murwillumbah.”
Leaderboard after SS2
1. S Ogier/J Ingrassia (FRA)                    Citroën C4               +3m35.1s
2. H Solberg/C Menkerud (NOR)           Ford Focus RS         +3.5
3. S Loeb/D Elena (FRA)                         Citroën C4               +4.3s
4. D Sordo/M Marti (ESP)                        Citroën C4               +5.0
5. J-M Latvala/M Anttila (FIN)                  Ford Focus RS          +5.1s
6. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen(FIN)                 Ford Focus RS          +8.1s
7. M Wilson/S Martin (GB)                      Ford Focus RS         +13.3s
8. F Villagra/J Perez Companc (ARG)         Ford Focus RS          +13.5s

Photos: Peter Whitten

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