Rally Frankrijk -  09 t/m 12 oktober 2008

12-10-2008 Einduitslag Rally Corsica

Hirvonen and Duval secure double podium for Ford in Corsica
BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team finished second and third on Rallye de France in Corsica today to top the points on this 13th round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen claimed second in a Ford Focus RS World Rally Car, arriving at the Ajaccio finish 6.9sec ahead of team-mates François Duval and Patrick Pivato in a similar car.

Hirvonen and Duval tussled for second and third for the opening two days, with the gap never greater than six seconds. However, when Hirvonen hit a pothole and had to stop to change a tyre on this morning's opening speed test, the top of the leaderboard was turned on its head. The 28-year-old Finn slipped to fifth behind the Focus RS WRC duo of Duval and Jari-Matti Latvala and also Petter Solberg. When Solberg punctured on the next stage, Hirvonen climbed to fourth and the team was able to activate a plan to keep alive the title hopes of both Ford and Hirvonen.

Duval deliberately checked into the start of the final special stage early to incur a two minute penalty while Latvala intentionally clocked in late to pick up a 90sec penalty. It allowed Hirvonen to move back into second. The extra points gained leave him 14 points from the lead with two rounds remaining, while second-placed BP Ford Abu Dhabi closed the gap to 23 points in the title race.

The Mediterranean island was bathed in sunshine throughout the three-day event, which comprised 16 speed tests on the west coast covering 359.02km. Tortuously twisty mountain roads provided a tough challenge for drivers while a mix of the high temperatures and frequently broken asphalt demanded strong durability from Pirelli's PZero tyres.

"I really appreciate what Jari-Matti and François did to help my title challenge," said Hirvonen. "There was a lot of broken asphalt in these stages and I saw a pothole in the distance about 4km after the start. I decided to drive over it – sometimes you do and sometimes you don't – but unfortunately the impact broke the wheel rim and allowed the air to escape from the front right tyre. I could have avoided it by driving around the hole so it was my mistake. I had to stop and change the tyre.

"There's still a chance to win the title and I will do all I can on the final two rounds in Japan and Britain. I'm really pleased with my speed on asphalt and my confidence has improved greatly on this surface both in Spain last week and here," he added.

Duval, whose third place followed fourth in Spain last weekend after being called into the team for the first time since 2004 due to his asphalt expertise, was happy. "I made no mistakes and a podium is a great result," said the 27-year-old Belgian. "My role was to help the team and so it made perfect sense for me to help Mikko here. This was a tough rally and I've had to work hard for third, but that's how I like it. The roads were narrow and difficult but those are the type of stages I enjoy."

Abu Dhabi's Khalid Al Qassimi and Michael Orr finished 12th in the team's other Focus RS WRC. "I made changes to the car's set-up this weekend and I'm nearly happy with that now. I have more to learn about my driving style on asphalt. I have a little knowledge, and I will gain more, but in general I'm pleased with the weekend," said Al Qassimi.
BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson explained the team's decision. "Rallying is a complex sport and the situation we found ourselves in this afternoon was far from ideal. However, we have to do everything we can to try to win the manufacturers' title for a third consecutive season and to give Mikko the best opportunity of claiming the drivers' crown," he said.

Ford of Europe's motorsport director, Mark Deans, said: "To see three Focus RS WRCs in the top four places is a great result. We've kept our championship hopes alive. It will be difficult to retain the manufacturers' title but we'll give our all during the final two rounds. We have a fantastic group of drivers and Jari-Matti Latvala's return to the official team in Japan augurs well for our chances there."

News from our Rivals

Sébastien Loeb (Citroen) led from start to finish to claim his second victory in consecutive weekends and his fifth in a row. The Frenchman won by 3min 24.7sec. Behind the Ford trio, Petter Solberg (Subaru) claimed fifth despite losing more than two minutes with a puncture on both passes through the second stage in the loop and team-mate Chris Atkinson rounded off the top six. Eighth for Stobart driver Matthew Wilson (Ford) and 13th for Toni Gardemeister (Suzuki) were enough to claim the final manufacturers' points.

Next round

After two asphalt events, the championship returns to gravel for the penultimate round later this month. Rally Japan (30 October - 2 November) is again based on the country's northernmost island of Hokkaido but has a new base in Sapporo and an entirely new route.

Final Leaderboard
1. S Loeb/D Elena F Citroën C4 3h42m58.0s
2. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Ford Focus RS +3m24.7s
3. F Duval/P Pivato B Ford Focus RS +3m31.6s
4. J-M Latvala/M Anttila FIN Ford Focus RS +3m37.5s
5. P Solberg/P Mills N Subaru Impreza +5m35.4s
6. C Atkinson/S Prevot AUS Subaru Impreza +6m10.4s
7. U Aava/K Sikk EE Citroën C4 +7m25.2s
8. M Wilson/S Martin GB Ford Focus RS +9m02.2s
9. M Ostberg/O-K Unnerud N Subaru Impreza +9m13.3s
10 B Clark/P Nagle GB Ford Focus RS +13m38.3s
15. H Solberg/C Menkerud N Ford Focus RS +15m53.4s

FIA WRC Manufacturer Standings
1. Citroën Total WRT – 169 pts; 2. BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT – 146 pts; 3. Subaru WRT – 87 pts; 4. Stobart VK M-Sport Ford – 62 pts; 5. Munchi’s Ford WRT – 22 pts; 6. Suzuki WRT – 21 pts

FIA WRC Driver Standings
1. S Loeb – 106 pts; 2. M Hirvonen – 92 pts; 3. D Sordo – 59 pts; 4. C Atkinson – 45 pts; 5. J-M Latvala – 42 pts; 6. P Solberg – 40 pts; 9. G Galli – 17 pts; 10. M Wilson – 13 pts

Bron: M-Sport

12-10-2008 onderstaand bericht werd direct na het einde van de rally bekend gemaakt op:


As expected, on the final stage The BP Ford Abu Dhabi team manipulated the positions of the three leading Fords to slot team leader Mikko Hirvonen into second.

Francois Duval deliberately checked-in early to the pre-stage control, collecting a two-minute penalty and dropping behind Hirvonen in the overall standings. “I am so happy,” said Duval. That’s two rallies with no mistakes and no punctures. It’s been a long time since I’ve driven such a good car on tarmac.”

A different strategy was employed for Jari-Matti Latvala, who was told to check in nine minutes late, collect 90sec of penalty time and finish fourth. “We want to do everything we can for the team,” he said. “Of course personally I’m disappointed but nobody can take away the experience and the confidence I have got here. It’ll be a completely different story on the gravel rallies which follow.”

Bron: wrc.com

11-10-2008 - de stand na dag 2:

Hirvonen keeps Duval at bay as Ford stays strong in Corsica,

BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team maintained its tight grip on second and third places during today's second leg of Rallye de France. Finland's Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen and team-mates François Duval and Patrick Pivato enjoyed their own private battle in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Cars over demanding mountain roads in Corsica. Hirvonen eventually retained second by just 4.3sec from his Belgian colleague on this 13th round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Corsica again resembled a picture postcard as cloudless skies and high temperatures ensured the Mediterranean island looked stunning as drivers tackled the sinuous asphalt speed tests near the rally base in Ajaccio. The route took competitors north for two identical loops of three special stages covering 122.84km. The opening test of each loop climbed to almost 930 metres into the island's mountains while the remaining two stages skirted the picturesque Golfe de Sagone.

The stages were highly technical, as the twisty roads were frequently covered in sand and gravel and many surface changes made it difficult for drivers to settle into a rhythm. The combination of high temperatures and abrasive asphalt again demanded strong durability from Pirelli's PZero tyres.

Hirvonen and Duval were as closely-matched today as they had been yesterday. Duval, who started just 1.7sec behind the 28-year-old Finn, edged ahead on the opening test only for Hirvonen to regain second on the next stage. He returned to Ajaccio for the lunchtime service with a slender 2.6sec advantage over 27-year-old Duval. The battle continued this afternoon as Hirvonen stretched the gap to 5.6sec, only for Duval to win the final test and narrow the margin to 4.3sec.

"This morning I thought that if everything went well, then I could keep ahead of François and that's how it turned out," said Hirvonen. "I don't think either of us was driving at 110 per cent this afternoon but nothing is certain so I'll drive hard tomorrow. Second would be very important to maintain my challenge for the drivers' championship. I have to accept that I can't beat Sébastien Loeb here, so I would be happy with second.

"The stages were tricky and I slid around and missed some braking points on the slippery gravel sections. There was more gravel on the stages and the roads were more abrasive. Tomorrow's roads are quite similar. They are very bumpy in places so I will need to be careful," he added.

BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson reflected on another troublefree day. "We wanted to keep the pressure on Loeb and we'll try to do the same tomorrow. There are four long stages so we can't afford to relax," he said.

News from our Rivals

Sébastien Loeb (Citroen) extended his lead to 52.4sec, the Frenchman untroubled in winning the first five stages today. Behind Hirvonen and Duval, Stobart driver Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford) overhauled Petter Solberg (Subaru) this morning and stretched his advantage over the Norwegian to 22.4sec this afternoon. Chris Atkinson (Subaru) fell away from that battle after puncturing his front left tyre in stage nine and dropping more than a minute. The Australian lies sixth. Toni Gardemeister (Suzuki) dropped four minutes with fuel pressure problems on stage 11 and another minute on the last stage with power steering troubles, while team-mate Per-Gunnar Andersson (Suzuki) crashed into retirement on the penultimate test. Andreas Mikkelsen (Ford) dropped more than seven minutes after twice stopping to change a puncture while Conrad Rautenbach (Citroen) and Stobart driver Henning Solberg (Ford) also had to stop to change tyres.

Tomorrow's Route

The final leg is the shortest of the rally, but offers a stern challenge. After leaving Ajaccio at 07.45, drivers face two identical loops of two long stages overlooking the picturesque Golfe d'Ajaccio, split by a return to the town for service. They face 116.26km of competition before the finish ceremony in Ajaccio at 14.48.

Leaderboard after Day 2
1. S Loeb/D Elena FRA Citroen C4 2hr 31min 27.9sec
2. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Ford Focus RS 2hr 32min 20.3sec
3. F Duval/P Pivato BEL Ford Focus RS 2hr 32min 24.6sec
4. J-M Latvala/M Anttila FIN Ford Focus RS 2hr 33min 18.5sec
5. P Solberg/P Mills NOR Subaru Impreza 2hr 33min 40.9sec
6. C Atkinson/S Prévot AUS Subaru Impreza 2hr 35min 34.1sec
7. U Aava/K Sikk EST Citroen C4 2hr 37min 17.8sec
8. B Tirabassi/F Gordon FRA Subaru Impreza 2hr 38min 32.7sec
9. M Wilson/S Martin GBR Ford Focus RS 2hr 38min 40.0sec
10 M Østberg/O Unnerud NOR Subaru Impreza 2hr 38min 40.6sec

Bron: M-Sport

10-10-2008 - de stand na dag 1:

Hirvonen holds second to spearhead Ford's challenge in Corsica,

BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team made a strong start to the Rallye de France to hold second and third positions after today's sun-kissed opening leg in Corsica. Finland's Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen lie second in a Ford Focus RS World Rally car with team-mates François Duval and Patrick Pivato third in a similar car, just 1.7sec behind after a fast and troublefree day through classic speed tests on the Mediterranean island.

Corsica is known as the Ile de Beauté – the island of beauty – and it provided a stunning backdrop to this 13th round of the FIA World Rally Championship. After last night's start ceremony in the capital, Ajaccio, the action began in earnest for the 71 starters today with two identical loops of three asphalt stages south of the town covering 119.92km. Cloudless skies and air temperatures topping 24ºC in the shade offered perfect conditions for drivers and spectators alike.

Unlike the smooth and flowing special stages encountered in Spain a week ago, the Corsican tests are bumpy, narrow and incredibly twisty and there is barely a straight worthy of the name. A combination of the often broken, and therefore abrasive, road surface and high surface temperatures demanded strong durability from Pirelli's hard compound PZero tyres fitted to both Focus RS cars.

The two Ford drivers were equally-matched throughout the day, the gap between the two never more than 3.3sec. Hirvonen completed the morning loop, which wound around the Golfe de Valinco on the west coast before climbing to almost 800 metres in the mountains near the village of Aullene, in second place, just 2.2sec ahead of his Belgian colleague. Two second fastest times this afternoon increased that marginally before 27-year-old Duval narrowed the gap with second on the last test.

"I'm feeling much better at the end of the first day here than I did in Spain last week, but the gap to Sébastien Loeb is 32sec, which is still too big for my liking," said Hirvonen. "He was faster than me on every stage and if he maintains that pace, then I can't beat him. I can't push any harder without taking massive risks. At the moment I'm driving safely and at a comfortable speed but if I push too hard then the car starts to understeer.

"I can't relax because François is close behind and I need to concentrate on the fight with him. He is a good driver on asphalt, so if I can stay ahead of him tomorrow I would be happy. Tomorrow will be interesting because the roads are rough and bumpy and mistakes could be punished with a puncture or worse," he added.

Duval, eighth in the start order, this morning encountered roads made dirty by the passage of the cars in front. However, he set second fastest time on the final stage of the loop, a feat he repeated this afternoon. "I expected more from today. I wanted to be second tonight, but third isn't too bad. This is a difficult rally and I didn't feel that the grip was 100 per cent perfect throughout the day," said Duval, who stiffened the spring settings on his car's suspension at the lunchtime service.

"It was especially difficult this morning because the roads were dirty and that's why I lost time in the first stage. However, conditions were the same for everyone this afternoon. The car understeered a little but maybe that's normal when the roads are dirty. I will need to push hard tomorrow. The gap to Mikko isn't so big so second place is possible," he added.

Abu Dhabi's Khalid Al Qassimi and Michael Orr lie 15th in the team's other Focus RS WRC on Al Qassimi's debut in Corsica. "I'm finding the rally difficult. I can't find the pace I need and I have to learn so much more about driving here before I can feel confident. I have more speed in me but I'm still trying to find my limit and twice I slid into the bushes this afternoon," said Al Qassimi.

BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson was encouraged by the team's performance. "We've made a big step forward since Spain and our drivers are happier here in these stages than they were last week. We need maximum points and both drivers will try to keep the pressure on Loeb tomorrow," he said.

News from our Rivals

Championship leader Sébastien Loeb (Citroen) was fastest on all six stages to build a 32.3sec advantage over Hirvonen. Behind the Focus RS cars, there was a fierce three-car battle for fourth. Stobart driver Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford) and Petter Solberg (Subaru) headed the trio twice each but it was the Norwegian who ended the day 1.2sec ahead of Latvala, with Chris Atkinson (Subaru) a further 2.7sec behind. Just 10sec covered the next six places on the leaderboard. Dani Sordo (Citroen) retired from second on the third stage when he crashed into a rock embedded in an earth bank. Urmo Aava broke his car's front left damper on the first stage. As well as losing time in the next two tests, he incurred a 60sec penalty as he battled to make repairs, but still lies 10th. Stobart driver Matthew Wilson (Ford) crashed into a tree on stage three, losing 30sec while team-mate Henning Solberg (Ford) punctured on the final stage and dropped four minutes when the car fell off the jack as the crew changed the tyre.

Tomorrow’s Route

The second day takes competitors north of Ajaccio for two identical loops of three speed tests covering 122.84km, the longest day of the rally. The opening stage climbs to almost 930 metres while the other two tests skirts the picturesque Golfe de Sagone. Cars leave Ajaccio at 07.45 and return at 18.28.

Leaderboard after Day 1
1. S Loeb/D ElenaFRA Citroen C4 1hr 09min 24.3sec
2. M Hirvonen/J LehtinenFIN Ford Focus RS 1hr 09min 56.6sec
3. F Duval/P PivatoBEL Ford Focus RS 1hr 09min 58.3sec
4. P Solberg/P MillsNOR Subaru Impreza 1hr 10min 35.8sec
5. J-M Latvala/M AnttilaFIN Ford Focus RS 1hr 10min 37.0sec
6. C Atkinson/S Prévot AUS Subaru Impreza 1hr 10min 39.7sec
7. T Gardemeister/T TuominenFINSuzuki SX4 1hr 12min 40.3sec
8. A Mikkelsen/O FloeneNOR Ford Focus RS 1hr 12min 42.8sec
9. B Tirabassi/F GordonFRA Subaru Impreza 1hr 12min 45.7sec
10 U Aava/K SikkEST Citroen C4 1hr 12min 47.3sec

Bron: M-Sport


Duval makes his point at Shakedown:

Francois Duval signalled his intention to win this weekend’s Rallye de France by posting the fastest time at this morning’s pre-event Shakedown.

The Belgian, drafted into the BP Ford Abu Dhabi squad for the rounds in Spain and Corsica, completed the 2.2km stage in 3m44.9s, two-tenths quicker than Citroen’s Sebastien Loeb who was his closest rival.

Duval was third for much of last week’s Rally de Spain, but surrendered the place at the request of his team to assist Mikko Hirvonen’s bid for the 2008 drivers’ championship. But on the second rally of the WRC’s asphalt double-header Duval has his eye on the outright win and feels confident about his pre-event preparations.

“I like the conditions here and I think we’ve got a really good set-up,” he said, “Corsica is a very difficult rally but I prefer the roads to the ones in Spain. I know them better, and so I find it a little bit easier. The shakedown was okay, but the road was not as bumpy as the proper ones. I’ll see what I can do. I’m here to win so I’ll try and catch one or both of the Citroens.”

Weather conditions were dry and sunny throughout the four hour session, with the temperature peaking at 23 degrees Celsius. The weather forecast for the weekend suggests this might be a dry Tour de Corse but there is a chance of some rain in the region tonight.

Here are the best times from each of the WRC drivers:

1. Duval: 3:44.9 *
2. Loeb: 3:45.1
3. Sordo: 3:45.6
4. Hirvonen: 3:46.5 *
5. Aava: 3:47.3
6. Mikkelsen: 3:47.6 *
7. P. Solberg: 3:48.3
8. Tirabassi: 3:49.5
9. Wilson: 3:49.8 *
10. H. Solberg: 3:49.9 *
11. Atkinson: 3:50.1
12. Latvala: 3:50.3 *
13. Gardemeister: 3:53.9
14. Rautenbach: 3:53.9
15. Andersson: 3:54.8
16. Ostberg: 3:55.4
17. Al Qassimi: 3:57.4 *
18. Jones: 3:59.8
19. Clark: 4:00.7 *

Bron: wrc.com

Craggy Corsican classics ready to challenge Ford line-up

Only four days after the speed tests in Spain fell silent, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team's drivers will fire up their Focus RS World Rally Cars again for the second instalment of the FIA World Rally Championship's asphalt double-header in the Mediterranean. Although it is only a short journey across the water to the craggy island of Corsica, Rallye de France (9 - 12 October) offers a challenge far removed from the one that competitors have just faced on Rally de España.

The 13th round of the series, and the final sealed surface fixture of the 2008 campaign, is regarded as the championship's 'classic' asphalt rally. In contrast to the smooth, sweeping roads of Spain, the popular holiday island offers narrow and tortuously twisty ribbons of asphalt on mountain roads that are susceptible to sudden and unpredictable changes in weather that can turn the rally against a driver just like flicking a switch.

BP Ford Abu Dhabi starts the year's second championship encounter to be fought out on French territory, following January's season-opening Rallye Monte Carlo in the Alps, in second place in the manufacturers' standings. Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen lie second in the drivers' points table with just three rounds remaining in the 15-event series. As in Spain, the Finns will be partnered by François Duval and Patrick Pivato in another Focus RS WRC.

Affectionately known as the Rally of 10,000 Corners, the event has evolved considerably in recent years. Roads that twist and turn with the contours of a mountain, with a rock face on one side and a huge drop into the sea on the other, are less frequent. Nevertheless, it remains hugely demanding and the abrasive asphalt requires hard-wearing tyres. The mountainous terrain and island location means rain is always likely, a factor that 28-year-old Hirvonen says demands accurate weather forecasting.

"The weather is so unpredictable here," he said. "One moment it's dry and sunny, the next it can be pouring with rain. The tyre rules mean we only have hard or soft compound rubber from which to choose - basically a dry tyre and a wet weather option - which makes the choice easier. However, it has become more important to know when it will start raining, rather than how hard it will rain as we only have the one wet weather option anyway.

"On the second day we have to choose tyres more than three hours before the final test in the loop so if rain is forecast, the team needs to predict when it will arrive so we can choose the correct rubber. Pirelli's tyres work well on the Focus RS WRC in light rain, but I've not experienced heavy rain yet so I wouldn't feel quite so comfortable in those conditions.

"I like competing on consecutive weekends because it's easy to slot into the driving style required for asphalt having just finished a rally on the same surface. This rally is much slower than Spain. It's more twisty, with corner after corner. Although some roads have been resurfaced in recent years to make them smoother, there are still many bumpy sections with broken asphalt which is abrasive for tyres. It's tough, but I enjoy Corsica because it's the classic asphalt rally in the championship and more traditional than the other sealed surface events," added Hirvonen, who has a 100 per cent finishing record from his four starts on the island.

Team News

* As part of the sport's new regulations, BP Ford Abu Dhabi will have just one tyre pattern from Pirelli. The PZero asphalt tyre will be available in both hard and soft compound but there will be no other option for specific dry or wet weather rubber. Teams are not allowed to hand-carve additional cuts into the rubber in the event of heavy rain and each car can carry two spares.

* Five other Focus RS cars will start. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila and Matthew Wilson / Scott Martin are nominated by the Stobart VK M-Sport squad while the team has also entered Henning Solberg / Cato Menkerud and Barry Clark / Paul Nagle. A privately-entered car will be driven by Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene.

* M-Sport raised £3500 for the new Colin McRae Vision charity. Ex-Ford driver McRae would have celebrated his 40th birthday in August. To mark the occasion M-Sport raised money during the month for the charity which will support designated children's charitable causes and also foster and educate young motorsport talent in the UK. BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson handed over the cheque to charity organisers at the Colin McRae Forest Stages Rally in Scotland last weekend.

Rally Route:

The rally is again based in Ajaccio with the action held over stages close to the island's west coast. Each leg comprises a different loop of stages used in both the morning and afternoon. Most of the roads are familiar to competitors from last year, but the opening two legs each include a test not used for several years and the final day's stages have been reversed from 2007. The first and last legs head south of Ajaccio with the middle day's competition stretching north of the town. The three legs are all of similar distance and drivers face 16 stages covering 359.02km in a route of 1094.36km.

Bron: www.mikkohirvonen.com

Strengthened Stobart squad crack on to Corsica
Four registered crews from the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford rally team embark on the 13th round of the FIA World Rally Championship next week when they head straight from Spain to Corsica for Rally de France – Tour de Corse.

Nominated to score points for the team will again be Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin and Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila. Joining them to create a four-strong Stobart squad is Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud and Barry Clark/Paul Nagle.

After 12 rounds of the championship Latvala lies fifth in the driver standings and with some tuition from one of Finland’s top touring car drivers, and his impressive sixth place finish on Rally Catalunya, the 23-year-old will be searching for yet another points finish this season.

For the second time on Tarmac this year Wilson will be a nominated points scorer for the team who still sit with a chance of taking third in the Manufacturers’ Championship. The 21-year-old has also been shaping up for the Corsican test receiving some driver training from world class asphalt coaching specialist Rob Wilson in England and after setting some positive times on the final day of Rally Catalunya will be looking to roll this fresh knowledge onto the Tour de Corse.

Solberg re-joins the Stobart squad for his first event since Rally Germany back in August where he scored his best ever result on Tarmac and first ever points finish on the sealed surface; coming home in seventh. The Norwegian will be looking to build on this especially with the event directly following the Catalan rally which was run this weekend.

A first for the Stobart team sees a Scotsman in the equation as Clark joins the ranks after two successful events in Jordan and Turkey earlier this year with the Munchi’s Ford outfit. The reigning Fiesta Sporting Trophy International champion helped secure these events within his calendar after last year’s success and as part of his championship prize. This will be the 26-year-old’s first Tarmac event in a World Rally car as he sets his sights on gaining maximum experience of the machinery on asphalt.

It will be a test of durability for the Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC07 which comes directly from three solid days of competition in Spain. It will also be a test for tyre engineers with the event allowing competitors to choose from a hard or soft compound Pirelli PZero tyre; a decision which could prove crucial to the final result.

Tour de Corse is renowned as one of the most watched events on the WRC calendar as its history dates back to the inaugural running of the championship in 1973 and has produced legendry winners from every WRC era. The event is extremely technical on more abrasive Tarmac than Spain and will consist of 16 special stages covering a total of 359.02 kilometres of competitive distance, again based from the island’s capital Ajaccio.

The event also throws up a logistical challenge for teams who travel straight from the last round in Spain with only a couple of days to get the full kit over the Mediterranean Sea. However, with Stobart’s logistical expertise, the team are confident of a smooth transition.

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Jari-Matti Latvala said:
“I am really looking forward to Corsica now after the improvements we made in Spain. I love the Corsica stages as they are more abrasive and the grip is good and it gives you a good feeling to be able to push on harder. I finished fourth here last year and won Group N a few years ago so I’m hoping for a good result again. I think my confidence will be better as I know I can push harder on the stages; there are not so many cuts, less gravel pulled out onto the road and they flow quite well when you get into a good rhythm. I found a good setting in Spain but most of all I learnt a lot about the Pirelli tyres and now I know how much I can push them and that I need to be really precise with them. That’s what helped me to get better times in Spain.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Matthew Wilson said:
“We had a few stages in Spain where I was under one second per kilometre off the leader so that’s a very positive feeling to take to Corsica next week. I like the stages as the grip is good on the abrasive roads and with a more relaxed recce period than other events, it allows me more time to look over the video and prepare for the rally. I find it beneficial to have two events very close together; we finished off well in Spain, with a good setup and confidence, and that means we will start in Corsica with this fresh in my mind. The weather as always can be very unpredictable on the island but if it stays dry I’m confident we can finish with a points result.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Henning Solberg said:
“Spain last week was a good learning event for us and we managed to find a setting that I was happy with after my engineer helped with some new differential settings. I drove a strong event remembering that I needed to learn as much as possible from Spain and now I am in a stronger position for Corsica. The more abrasive stages here will help me and I’m confident the feeling with the car will be improved.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Driver Barry Clark said:
“This is going to be a seriously tough rally but I’m really looking forward to the challenge. Corsica is different from other tarmac events because there is just corner after corner and virtually no straights. It’s also very narrow and bumpy so there’s a lot to contend with. I’ve competed in Corsica once before in 2006 in the Fiesta but this will be a whole different scenario. It will be about having a good shakedown and building up my feeling and confidence in the Focus WRC.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said:
“The team are starting in Corsica on the back of a decent performance in Spain where both Jari-Matti and Matt made some good improvements. There’s no reason why this form shouldn’t continue and with Henning and Barry joining them, we have a strong line-up within the Stobart squad. Jari-Matti was fourth here last year so there’s a good chance of him challenging for a podium place for the team.”

Event Information
Date: 10-12 October 2008
Round: 13 of 15 FIA World Rally Championship
Based: Ajaccio, Corsica
Stage surface: Asphalt
Total stage distance: 359.02km
Number of stages: 16
Longest stage: 31.81km, SS13&15 Agosta-Pont de Calzola
Central Service Park: Port Ajaccio

Bron: M-Sport

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