Henning Solberg on Fire on Norway’s Snow and Ice

Henning Solberg on Fire on Norway’s Snow and Ice

14.02.2009: FIA World Rally Championship Rally Norway, 13–15 February 2009 Day Two Henning Solberg produced a magnificent performance for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team to finish the second full day at Rally Norway in fourth position.

 FIA World Rally Championship Rally Norway, 13–15 February 2009  Day Two

Henning Solberg produced a magnificent performance for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team to finish the second full day at Rally Norway in fourth position.

The Norwegian proved himself the king of the mountains around Lillehammer, delighting fans at his home rally by charging up the overall classification from seventh at the start of the day to just one place off the podium.  The two other Ford Focus RS WRCs of the Stobart Team also fared well in the perfect winter rally conditions, with Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin and Urmo Aava/Kuldar Sikk also improving their standings to place seventh and eighth overall.

The second full day of action at Rally Norway saw 40 crews tackle 118.94km of competitive distance over two identical loops of four stages, separated by a 30-minute service in the Viking Ship Service Park.  Conditions on the stages remained similar to the previous day, with the packed ice on the routes meaning competitors had to place their faith in the grip provided by the tungsten-tipped studs on the Pirelli Sottozero snow tyre to keep them away from the high snow banks.

The morning’s opening stages saw Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud find the kind of form that had eluded them on Friday, recording fourth-fastest times on SS10 Mountain and SS12 Ringsaker, and a third-fastest time on the short 1.15km SS13 Hamar.   That saw the Stobart pair move from seventh to fifth overall by the time they returned to mid-day service. 

The snow specialists then blew away the opposition on the first stage of the afternoon loop, going fastest through the SS14 Mountain 0.7 seconds ahead of works Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala.  They continued to post top four stage times over the following three stages, and stretched their lead over Dani Sordo in fifth to 12 seconds by the end of the second leg.

After steady progress on the opening loop Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin found themselves sitting comfortably in seventh place overall.  They claimed sixth from former world champion Petter Solberg after his car suffered technical problems, but couldn’t hold off the charging Norwegian on his home rally and had to concede the place to him once more on SS16 Ringsaker.  However, the Cumbrian pair are well placed to attack Solberg when the action resumes on Sunday morning, with only 2.3 seconds separating their Ford Focus RS WRC from his privately-entered Citroën Xsara.

Urmo Aava/Kuldar Sikk had picked up two places after the first loop to move from tenth to eighth, despite the Estonian Stobart crew feeling they had not found the optimum setup for the snow-bound stages.  Better times in the afternoon’s tests, including a sixth-fastest on the long 27.29km SS16 Ringsaker, saw them complete the second leg with no major dramas and find themselves comfortably-placed in eighth overall. 

The final day of the rally on Sunday will feature fewer stages than on the preceding two legs, but cover more competitive distance.  The crews will tackle two identical loops of three stages totalling 126.16km, with the 30.03km Våler test providing the longest challenge of the event for drivers. 

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Henning Solberg said
: “Today has been great, much better than yesterday and far more enjoyable.  The feeling with the car is improved and now I’m really enjoying it; hopefully I’m also putting on a good show for all the Norwegian fans.  The stages were in great condition today and the tyres provided fantastic grip.  To get ahead of Sordo is a big bonus and the fastest time just topped the day off for me.  Now I am the fastest Solberg on the rally; hopefully I can keep it like this tomorrow.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matthew Wilson said
:  “We haven’t gone just as well as yesterday and I think that’s because I didn’t do these stages in 2007.  That meant my pacenotes just weren’t as hot as the first day and I didn’t have the confidence to push hard.  Hopefully tomorrow though we should get the pace back.  As a positive, we have had no problems, had a solid drive and moved up a place on the leaderboard.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Urmo Aava said: “I lost the feeling with the car this morning and my times weren’t so great but at Service my engineer changed some settings on the dampers and it felt much better for the afternoon. The feeling was really good and it let us push on more.  The grip out on the stages is deceptive, the tyres give you really good grip and it’s possible to drive much harder than you think.”

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team Principal Malcolm Wilson said
: “It has been fantastic for Henning to get a fastest time, especially when there is such a fierce battle for the lead going on; it just demonstrates the potential of the Stobart team for the rest of the season.  Today was a good team performance all-round with all three crews improving on their overnight positions and moving up the leaderboard.  Tomorrow is a long day though so they can’t afford to make any mistakes.”

Leaderboard after Day 2

1. S Loeb/D Elena (F)                             Citroën C4               2h22m11.1s
2. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen (FIN)                 Ford Focus RS          +15.0s
3. JM Latvala/M Anttila (FIN)                    Ford Focus RS          +43.2s
4. H Solberg/C Menkerud (N)                   Ford Focus RS           +2m41.3s
5. D Sordo/M Marti (E)                           Citroën C4               +2m53.3s
6. P Solberg/P Mills (N)                           Citroën Xsara           +4m50.9s
7. M Wilson/S Martin (GB)                        Ford Focus RS           +4m53.2s
8. U Aava/K Sikk (EE)                                Ford Focus RS           +5m18.5s
9. M Ostberg/O Unnerud (N)                    Subaru Impreza       +6m57.8s
10. S Ogier/J Ingarassia (F)                     Citroën C4               +9m10.2s

Glenn Patterson, photos Stobart-
More photos on automobilsport.com under PHOTOS Slideshows - photos-ecards will be PHOTOS-WRC Rallyes

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14.02.2009 / MaP

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