18 Jun 08
Fifth place for Henning Solberg on Rally Turkey was some consolation for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team after Gigi Galli’s podium challenge came to an end on the second day of the competition.
Solberg got off to a good start, recording a string of top five times, and a stage win, on the rally’s opening day and ending it second overall - even though his final placing owed much to the BP Ford Team’s tactical reshuffle.
On Saturday and Sunday, however, the Norwegian struggled to get to grips with a new differential, fitted to his Focus RS WRC as part of a transmission swap on Friday evening. Solberg nonetheless enjoyed a good fight with Dani Sordo for fourth on Sunday, but ultimately had to settle for fifth after losing the place by 8.1 seconds.
“Fifth place is great and I have been pleased with my driving,” said Solberg. “It was a tough rally and we had to manage the tyres well for the whole time. The first day felt great and it was a good feeling to set a fastest time. Then we had to make some changes to the car and the feeling just wasn’t as good as the first day. But we kept the pace up.”
For the first half of the event the Stobart team had two cars in the top five, thanks to the efforts of Gigi Galli who held a solid third until SS11. But on the next stage (Kemer) the Italian noticed a turbo boost valve problem, which by the end of SS13 had cost him four minutes and dropped him to eighth.
An utterly deflated Galli did his best over the rest of the day, but a combination of exhaustion and dehydration meant he pulled out of the competition altogether on Sunday.
“It was a very disappointing end to a tough event that we started really well,” said Galli. “The first day was fantastic for me and we managed the performance well and found a good compromise between preserving the tyres and keeping a fast speed. But the days were long and hard and I was totally exhausted on Saturday evening and needed some treatment from the doctor for dehydration. I didn’t feel any better on Sunday so it wasn’t possible or safe for me to continue.”
Backing up the team with his fourth drivers’ points finish this year was Briton Matthew Wilson, who finished seventh. The twenty-one-year-old, who was sixth on the last round in Greece, set a string of top eight times and was third quickest on Friday’s first pass through the Phaselis stage.
“This has definitely been one of our strongest performances, pace-wise,” said Wilson. “To come to Turkey, make new pace notes and set good times right from the very first stage is great. We have taken things step-by-step this year and to have two strong finishes in a row, in Greece and now Turkey, is very encouraging and helps a lot with my confidence for the next event.”