01 Dec 07
Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team drivers Henning Solberg and Jari-Matti Latvala became victims of the severe conditions during leg one of Wales Rally GB. Both were forced to retire from the leg with similar, visibility related issues.
Torrential rain mixed with strong gale force winds and heavy fog generated huge amounts of mud. The conditions caught Solberg first after suffering a broken heater matrix on stage 4, losing a massive amount of time and causing problems with his blower which made the windscreen on his Ford Focus RS became dangerously fogged up. He finally retired on the penultimate stage of the day.
"I was not happy this morning which started off with a puncture but that is a part of the game. I couldn't really find my rhythm today and then on stage 4 things got worse when the heater started playing up and I couldn't see anything for the whole stage," said Solberg. "This got worse over the final two stages today and in the end Cato [Menkerud] had to use a stick with his hat on the end to try and clear the windscreen because the mist was just too bad to see anything. I just couldn't see a thing at all when the screen was misted up. Then it was even worse in the dark and I had no option but to crawl through the stages. I am so disappointed with today as we were hoping for things to start off well here."
Unfortunately Latvala, who was holding fourth overall throughout most of the day, was caught by the harsh conditions which caused a fault on his wipers forcing him to retire on the final test. With the wipers not being able to cope with the amounts of rain coming down, the Finn went off early in the stage and had an impact, causing a slight damage to the drivers' door.
"After a slowish first stage things got much better on the next two stages. While I was still making some small mistakes and sliding too much in places the rhythm was OK and we were in fourth fighting Loeb for third," said Latvala. "In the last stage everything went wrong. The visibility was really bad and my wipers were not working properly. The rain was so bad I couldn't see anything and then I hit a bank quite hard on a very rough part of the stage which damaged the bumper and made the wipers stop working completely. I really couldn't see anything at all and had to stop and get out of the car a few times to clean the mud off the windscreen. There was so much water coming up over the screen that I had no option but to stop in places. It was a really frustrating end to what was a very encouraging start to the rally."
Both Solberg and Latvala have rejoined the WRC field today for leg two under SupeRally regulations.