The M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team will go on the attack on the final sealed surface round of the WRC season next week, RACC Rally de España, and has set its sights on claiming its best result of the season on asphalt.
The Cumbria-based squad has successfully scored points in every rally since the 2011 season-opener in Sweden, and has finished in the top five in eight out of 11 WRC events. The team has yet to score a top five result on an asphalt rally this season, but after gaining valuable experience piloting the Ford Fiesta RS WRC on the recent French and German tarmac rallies its crews will be looking to rectify that statistic in Spain.
With gravel being their favoured surface recently-crowned Norwegian Rally Champions Mads Østberg and co-driver Jonas Andersson will be looking to build on their asphalt pace next week. Østberg, who celebrated his 24th birthday on Tuesday, has been busy trying to secure funding for 2012 since France, and will also take part in a motor show over the weekend working with local dealers close to home.
Mads Østberg said: “Since France I’ve had my birthday and I’m attending a motor show on Sunday with some Norwegian car dealers. I’ll be there with the Fiesta S2000 and will have some time in the car, but it’s not going to be much of a test before Spain. I think the feeling we had from France was good, especially from the Sunday. I will look to carry on from where we left off in France and hope we can continue that good feeling that we had on the final day. It’s obviously going to be tricky starting on gravel and finishing on asphalt, but we have a good opportunity to do well in Spain so I’m feeling positive.”
Happy with finding a good set-up for asphalt on the last day of Rallye de France, Britain’s Matthew Wilson and fellow Cumbrian Scott Martin are eager to get on the pace from the outset next week. Wilson has been given an extra boost after testing the Ford Fiesta RS WRC in Cumbria this week. Despite being an all-gravel test, the experience will be beneficial for the British driver as Friday’s stages in Spain will also contain 80km of gravel.
Matthew Wilson said: “I’m looking forward to Spain. We found a good set-up on the final day in France and that gave me a lot of confidence after what was otherwise a very difficult weekend. Spain has an added difficulty with the mix of surfaces on the Friday but last year I actually enjoyed the asphalt sections the most, so it’ll be interesting to see if that’s still the same this year. Saturday is always going to be tricky as the car will be back to full asphalt trim, but I think I just need to get into the right mind-set and if I’ve found a good rhythm on Friday then we should hopefully be in a good position for the next couple of days.”
Regular team-mates Henning Solberg and co-driver Ilka Minor will also be present under the M-Sport Stobart banner at the penultimate round of the WRC. The pair posted their third top six result of the year in France, and Solberg be looking to emulate his good performance at last year’s event in Spain which saw the Norwegian finish first in class and eighth overall in the Ford Fiesta S2000.
Henning Solberg said:“I really enjoyed Spain last year in the Ford Fiesta S2000, I wasn’t looking forward to the mix of surfaces but I actually really enjoyed it. Before the end of the season I want to finish in the top five again and I felt we were getting closer and closer to achieving that in France. We need to find a consistent pace for each stage next week, and of course we need to keep the car out of trouble. When we have no problems in the car I feel I can push more than I could in the Ford Focus RS WRC.”