The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team are just one event away from capturing a podium position in the FIA World Rally Championship for manufacturers as they head to Swansea for Wales Rally GB; the final round of the 2007 WRC season.
After a stunning performance from all three crews in Ireland last week, the Stobart team now move one point ahead of works manufacturer Subaru. If results stay the same this would be an amazing performance by somewhat of a young team in just its second full year of competition.
Coming off a string of unfamiliar rallies the team now head to an event which, collectively, they have the most experience of, with 14 attempts at the rally scattered amongst the three drivers. Henning Solberg with co-driver Cato Menkerud, who returns to the hot seat after missing Ireland due to the birth of his second child, is the most experienced of the trio with six Rally GB starts already under his belt.
Team-mates Matthew Wilson, Michael Orr and Jari-Matti Latvala all hold Rally GB in a special place in their careers with all three guys having made their WRC debut on the event. Latvala’s co-driver Miikka Anttila made his WRC debut on home soil in Finland but ventured to GB for the first time just two events later in that same year.
The British round of the world rally championship is one of the most established events, running every year since the WRC was founded in 1973. Placed in the winter months, cold and wet conditions are almost guaranteed; turning the gravel stages into literal mud-baths and making conditions some of the slipperiest of the year. The last race of the year will be contested on the fast, forest roads of South Wales and will include a spectacular indoor stage at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday evening.
The route covers 360 kilometres of competitive distance with the final stages on Friday and Saturday run in complete darkness; something not seen since the opening round of the championship in Monte-Carlo. The event itself, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary, has 115 registered entrants - the largest amount for a rally in the 2007 championship.  
Solberg has been looking forward to this event for almost two months, after having to contest the last four rallies for the first time in his career. It will be the Norwegian’s seventh attempt at Rally GB and he is relishing the opportunity to go flat-out once again on some more familiar roads.
With many expecting Latvala to secure his first podium on Welsh soil, he now heads to the event chasing his second consecutive podium after a splendid performance in Ireland last week where he finished third. The young Finn will not be slowing down here as he takes on Rally GB for the sixth time in his career – his first was in 2002 at just 17 years of age.
Like his Finnish team-mate, Wilson, too, made his debut on Rally GB at the tender age of 17 in 2004. This will be the third attempt at his home rally for Britain’s only full-time WRC driver and the youngster couldn’t be more hungry for a strong finish in front of his home crowd. He starts the event after two consecutive point scoring results in Japan and Ireland.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
“I will be going flat out on this rally I promise you. All the Ford guys will be going hard, firstly for Stobart to be number three in the manufacturers’ championship and secondly to help Marcus [Grönholm] win the drivers’ championship; this is very important. I am very happy to be back on roads that I know and if we can show the same speed as Japan I think we can do very well, because in Japan I had only seen those roads for the first time. I will try my best on this event and drive as fast as I can here. The roads can be difficult at GB but this is my seventh time here so I know what to expect from them. The Focus has been great all year and I have had an especially good felling on gravel.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:
“This is going to be a very exciting event and one where I think I can do well. I have competed on this event every year since 2002 and finished every time so my experience of GB is already quite good. Marcus [Grönholm] has the chance of winning the championship in Wales and I will try and help him as much as possible. The conditions can be very slippery especially if it is wet because as more cars pass across the stages it starts to break the surface and make things very muddy. It will be interesting to see if we can keep ahead of Subaru and I know it is something all the team, and especially Henning competing against his brother’s team, will be very excited to achieve. I will try and do as well as possible here and for sure I want to get into the top-five but it would be a great thing to get on the podium for the second event in a row.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
“This is a pretty special event for me and the whole M-Sport team as it is essentially our home rally and the final event for 2007. It has been a great year already and hopefully we can finish off in style here in Wales. I have done this event more times than any other so it will be a good to come into it with a bit more experience under my belt. The conditions can be very difficult here when the roads start to turn into mud and if it is wet then it will be very challenging. Again we are going to approach this event with the goal of getting through each stage and getting the maximum number of experience miles in the car, but I think it will be good for my confidence to know we have done this event two times previous.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“The Stobart team are in quite a strong position now and I genuinely believe they can beat the Subaru team in Wales next week. Both Jari and Henning have a huge amount of experience here which will count for a lot in the slippery conditions. They have also both performed very well on gravel this year so it would be fantastic if they can string it together and hang onto the place in the manufacturers’ championship. Hopefully, too, they can help Marcus with his quest to win his first drivers’ championship with the BP-Ford team. Matthew also has experience of this event, competing here for the third time in his career, and hopefully will be able to build on the last two rallies and score points again; this will be a good platform for him going into next year’s championship.”
Event Information
Date: 29 November-2 December 2007
Round: 16 of 16 FIA World Rally Championship
Based: Cardiff, Wales
Stage surface: Gravel
Total distance: 1271.94km (360 competitive)
Number of stages: 17
Number of different stage venues: nine
Maximum number of times the same stage roads are used: two
Longest stage: 28.89km (stage 14 & 16)
Highest elevation on stage: 420 metres above sea level (stage 2 & 5)
Central service park: Swansea Docklands
Ceremonial Start: 19:30 Thursday 15 October at Cardiff City Hall
Leg one: 30 November. Cars starting SS1, Port Talbot 1 at 09:53, tackling 140.8km
Leg two: 1 December. Cars starting SS7, Crychan 1 at 09:38, tackling 118.36km
Leg three: 2 December. Cars starting SS14 Brechfa 1 at 07:46, tackling 114.26km
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