29 Jul 08
Stobart VK M-Sport drivers Gigi Galli, Henning Solberg and Matthew Wilson are counting on their prior experience of Rally Finland to give them an advantage on this year’s event, which begins on Thursday.
Currently fourth in the Manufacturers’ Championship, the Stobart squad is aiming to get ahead of Subaru and finish the season inside the top three. Asphalt expert Francois Duval has been recruited to help on the forthcoming smooth surface rallies, but in Finland the job of beating the Subarus is down to the team’s two points scorers Gigi Galli and Henning Solberg.
Galli has tackled the rally seven times before. His best results are the GpN class win he took in 2004 and fifth place overall in 2006. He missed the rally in 2007 and is looking forward to returning to the stages this year. “I hope that the time will go quickly over the next few days because I have been annoyed sitting at home and not being able to go rallying,” said Galli. “The pace has been very good for us over the last three gravel events, now we just need a bit of luck and a good result. We have done this rally many times before and I know it well, but it is a bit of a shame that the famous Ouninpohja stage has been cancelled this year because it is one of my all time favourites. It is not going to be easy because Mikko and Jari-Matti will be lightning fast but okay we will try our best. This will be fast, fun and some big jumps but if we can be consistent and stay out of trouble I think we can do well.”
Henning Solberg is the most experienced of the three Stobart drivers with eight Rally Finland starts under his belt. “I have done this event many times before and it is one I love because of the fast speeds and massive jumps,” he said. “For the last two years we have finished inside the top five so hopefully we can achieve this again and maybe even finish on the podium.”
Running in the third Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC07 are Matthew Wilson and co-driver Scott Martin. The British pair will tackle the event together for the first time this week but having contested three Finnish championship rallies in 2005, they have some knowledge of the specialist nature of the Finnish roads. “I’ve had a bit of time in the car with the a few promotional drives like Goodwood and some drive days which have been really beneficial while there have been no rallies,” said Wilson. “Scott and I have spent some time recently working on our notes and I think with even more new rally route this year we will need to be on the ball with our pacenotes; they are such an important aspect of a fast event like this. Finland is going to be quite warm but I have been keeping my fitness level up over the break with the bike ride across Britain and some training back in Cumbria and I am feeling 100 percent ready to get back into the action.”