The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team celebrated its finest hour in the World Rally Championship today, clinching fourth position on its home round of the series, Wales Rally Great Britain.
The hero of the hour was 21-year-old Finn Jari-Matti Latvala, who turned in a faultless performance to bring the Stobart VK M-Sport-decaled Focus RS WRC 06 home fourth. Despite being in the sport for less than a season, the team has made enormous progress to end the year so close to spraying the champagne on the podium. Latvala arrived in Cardiff for Britain’s round of the World Rally Championship on the back of wins in the Australian and New Zealand rounds of the Production WRC. He maintained that blistering pace when he stepped aboard a 2006 Focus for the first time in Wales.
Latvala’s team-mate, Britain’s leading world championship regular Matthew Wilson, suffered a spin on the second of today’s four stages north-west of the rally’s base in Cardiff. The 19-year-old Cumbrian, in only his first full season in the series, admitted he’d found his home rally among the toughest he has tackled on his 16-round world tour this season. Wilson had competed on Rally Great Britain twice previously, but each of those events had been run in September in considerably warmer and drier conditions. Wilson ended the event 12th.
Meanwhile Barry Clark and Scott Martin achieved the drive of their lives, becoming World Champions in the Junior WRC Rookie category and emphatically clinched overall honours in the Fiesta Sporting Trophy International.
Sporting details:
Latvala started the day in fifth place, 4.4 seconds off Xevi Pons in fourth. He reduced the gap to the Spaniard by two seconds on this morning’s first stage, before moving back into fourth on SS15 after setting a time 33 seconds faster than his rival. Latvala remained fourth until the finish to claim the best result of his career.
Wilson departed Swansea in 11th position this morning, but slipped behind Henning Solberg after his SS15 spin. Wilson remained 12th until the finish, clinching his best ever result on his home round of the series.
Technical details:
Both Ford Focus RS WRC 06s and Clark’s Fiesta ST ran without any technical trouble.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team driver Matthew Wilson said:
“The spin in the second stage cost us quite a lot of time, maybe 20 seconds or something like that. It was in a long hairpin, I braked for the corner and put it sideways. From then on it just picked up speed, the front of the car touched a bank and that spun the car right around.
Then I had to move forward and backwards to get us facing the right direction. That happened quite close to the start of the stage, which took away my confidence for the rest. It was a shame because the first one this morning had been okay, we’d gone well in there. For the rest of the day, I was focused on getting to the finish, not making mistakes and just getting more experience of the roads. I have been surprised at how tough this event has been. I knew it would be different coming here and not having driven in the wet conditions, but it really has been like a different rally. I think I needed about 15 runs on the recce rather than just two, and even then I’m still not sure I’d know exactly what to expect!”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:
“After I had been in fourth place for so much of the event, I didn’t really want to give it up this morning. I pushed in the first stage and took a couple of seconds out of [Xevi] Pons. Then in the next one he had some sort of problem (a spin), which made a bigger gap between us. To be honest, I could have gone quicker in SS15, but I had a big moment not far from the start of the stage, so I was aware of what I was risking all of the time. I didn’t want any mistakes, so I was more sensible after that. The roads have been just as slippery as ever today, but clinching this position is just amazing. I said at the start that I wanted to make some points, but I didn’t really know if that was possible. To come here and do this kind of rally has been incredible!”
Stobart VK Team driver Barry Clark said:
“That’s been not a bad weekend! It’s fantastic to be a World Rally Champion, there’s not many people who have that. I was just cruising for most of this event as the conditions have been so bad and so many people were having punctures. Everything went exactly to plan. It’s our second Fiesta win and we’ve taken second in the championship. We were usually the fastest car when the luck went our way and I’m frustrated that we couldn’t win that title as well as it would have been fantastic to have both in one year.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“Jari-Matti has done just what I thought he could. He has driven with his head and shown good pace this morning to get back into fourth place. It’s a great moment for the Stobart VK team, a real moment for them to savour. It’s also been a good rally for Matthew. Yesterday he was down to under a second per kilometre off the fastest times, which is what we wanted. Matthew puts himself under as much pressure as anybody and, from time to time, he has to remember that this is the first year of a long plan. In reality, this is a great weekend to be in a Ford. We’ve won the manufacturers’ championship, we’ve won the team’s round of the championship and Stobart VK is in fourth. Great!”
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