The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team travel the short distance from Costa Daurada to Corsica for next weekend’s Rallye de France Tour de Corse, round 13 of the FIA World Rally Championship, off the back of an excellent result on Rally Catalunya where all three cars finished inside the top-eleven.
Unlike its sister event in Catalunya, Rally de France is more technically demanding and offers very twisty stages; the event has been dually dubbed ‘rally of ten thousand corners’. The fast-paced mindset from Spain will need to be put to rest as crews prepare to tackle 359 kilometres of winding mountainous roads which surround Rally Headquarters in Ajaccio.
The island of Corsica is based off the southern French coast engulfed within the crystal clear Mediterranean Sea and, with the event being reverted back to an autumn date, temperatures are set to be warm and humid. Impulsive weather conditions make tyre choice vital and with three-stage loops being run this year, selection of the correct BF Goodrich tyre could be a decisive factor for many overall positions.
Rally de France is renowned as one of the most watched events on the WRC calendar, its history dates back to the inaugural round of the championship in 1973 and has produced legendry winners from every WRC era. Stages will be run on the western side of the island on tarmac that is often old, worn and bumpy. The roads are built on the side of mountains and follow the contours of the land and, with very few straights, this gives the event a definitive character from similar rallies such as Monte Carlo.
Like Catalunya, however, this is another rally where all three Stobart crews have minimal experience. For Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud this will be their first attempt at the event while Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr have been here once, in 2006. Team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila again guide the Stobart experience train, having competed here for the last three years.
Latvala had his best result in 2005 where he finished first in the GpN category and an impressive 16th outright. Last year the 22-year-old showed great pace to be in seventh position after leg 1 but a large accident on Saturday’s second stage forced him to retire from the event and spend the day with a medic after breaking his hand in the incident. If the Finn can re-create last year’s Friday form and bring his Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC06 to the end, a points finish could certainly be on the cards.
For the second event in a row Solberg will be experiencing a rally for the first time in his career. After competing on his first sealed surface event earlier this year, the Norwegian will be looking to use experience gained on recent asphalt rallies to his advantage. Working hard on his tarmac approach in recent weeks Solberg has said his notes are perfect for the surface but the style required to produce speed on it is still something he is developing.
Twenty-year-old Wilson is also looking to use experience gained on recent events as he tackles Rally de France for the second time in his career. Last year’s event was only Wilson’s fifth for the championship season but with the move back to autumn he now has more events under his belt in 2007. This will certainly help his cause as Britain’s only full-time WRC contender looks to improve on his previous year’s result.
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
“This is my first time to Corsica and really this month of October is a big learning month for me. I will be driving in Spain, Corsica and Japan for the first time ever and I really just need to take it steady on these events and make it to the finish. I’m not so sure of what to expect this weekend and I think I will get a few surprises once the recce starts. But I am pleased with my result in Spain and especially being able to finish inside the top-ten on my first attempt. Asphalt rallying is all about experience, which I don’t have much of, but I’m learning all the time with every stage I complete and now the feeling is coming.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:
“I enjoy the stages in Corsica, it is much different to Spain as the speeds are less and there are many more corners on the roads. I was unfortunate last year when I got caught in a battle with Xevi Pons and ended up sliding on some gravel and going off the road. I can say that this year, however, I have been more controlled and consistent and have learnt more about driving on asphalt. I have tried to be more smooth, easier on braking, so as not to upset the car, and less aggressive in the corners; I think this is starting to work for me now.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
“Well first of all it’s really good that we are going to Corsica straight from the last event in Spain. The experience we have gained from Catalunya will be fresh in my head and hopefully we can put it to good use. The first two days of this rally are very different from last year which means it’s a more level playing field as everyone should be making some new pacenotes. I enjoyed the Sunday stages last year and those were my best of the event so I’m looking forward to those again. If the stages stay dry then I think we are in with a chance of a decent result.”
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“The team performed well in Spain and I would imagine their confidence on asphalt is greater now than a week ago. They all improved during the three days of competition and ended the rally on a high. The important thing for me is that the drivers and cars are in the best possible mental and physical shape to start this next round. There will be less pressure on the crews in Corsica and the skills that they learnt in Spain will make a big difference as they go straight into another asphalt rally.”
Event Information
Date: 12-14 October 2007
Round: 13 of 16 FIA World Rally Championship
Based: Ajaccio, Corsica
Stage surface: Tarmac
Total distance: 1117.2km (359 competitive)
Number of stages: 16
Number of different stage venues: eight
Maximum number of times same stage roads are used: twice
Longest stage: 31.81km (stage 14 & 16)
Central Service Park: Ajaccio Port
Shakedown Stage: 5.45km stage
Ceremonial Start: 19:00 from Place Foch, Ajaccio
Leg one: 12 October. Cars starting SS1, Monti Rossu at 08:38, tackling 124.28km
Leg two: 13 October. Cars starting SS7 Carbuccia at 08:58, tackling 122.94km
Leg three: 14 October. Cars starting SS13 Penitencier at 08:53, tackling 112.10km
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