27 Feb 08
The Stobart Ford rally team has made an excellent start to the 2008 WRC season and will begin the third round placed equal second in the Manufacturer standings.
Rally Mexico is the first gravel event in 2008 and the third consecutive event that a different driver combination will be nominated to score points for the Stobart squad.
After their podium finish on Rally Sweden earlier this month, Gigi Galli/Giovanni Bernacchini are again nominated as the first points-eligible drivers, but they will be joined this time by the British pair of Matthew Wilson/Scott Martin. This will be the first time Wilson has been nominated as a points scoring driver since Wales Rally GB in 2006.
Stobart regulars Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud will not be part of the team in Mexico; instead they will drive as part of the M-Sport-run Munchi's Ford World Rally Team.
Twenty-one-year-old Wilson is hoping to continue the form he showed in Sweden where he was involved in a close battle for fifth place before a broken electronic throttle forced his retirement on the penultimate stage.
"It's great to be nominated to score points for the Stobart team again," said Wilson. "There will be a bit more pressure on me now but it's a real boost to be able to help the team after such a great start to the year. Mexico has always been quite a good rally for me and it's where I scored my first drivers' points in last year's championship. It's a bit of a shame not going into the event with any points from Sweden but we will look to get some here.
"The altitude makes it tough on the cars and the body so Scott and I will be doing some altitude training once we get out there to try and acclimatise a bit better. It will be the first time for me on the new Pirelli gravel tyre but so far we have had no problems on the tarmac and studded versions so I'm confident the feeling will be good in Mexico," he added.
Rally Mexico will be Galli's first event on gravel in the Stobart Focus RS WRC07 and the 35-year-old is relishing the opportunity. The only time he has competed in Mexico before was in 2004 when he retired on SS6 with broken suspension.
Budget restrictions have prevented the Italian from competing in Mexico over the last three years but he kept his hand in by completing the reconnaissance in 2005 and 2006.
"I just really want to be in Mexico right now, I feel like a horse before a big race raring to go!" said Galli. "I competed on this event in 2004 but only got through five stages; however we did do the recce in 2005 and 2006 which I think will help a lot. Mexico is such a wonderful place to go and the atmosphere of the fans is incredible. The people also manage the roads very well there which makes them quite enjoyable to drive on. It will be harder for me to compete at a good level having only done five competitive stages in 2004 but I don't care, it will be good to be there and get used to the new tyre. I have never used the new Pirelli tyre so this gives us the chance to discover the car and the tyre on gravel for the first time. Like every rally I set a pace on the first stage, see where we are and then develop the speed and feeling from there."
"The team heads to Mexico sitting in a great position and with a good chance of finishing the event still in a top-three Manufacturer spot," said Stobart Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson. "Altitude plays a big part in this rally and it will be tough on both drivers as the temperatures are much higher than the previous two events. Gigi has shown a level head on the first two events this year and already stepped onto the podium in Sweden. It will be a tricky first gravel event for him, however, as he will have the added challenge of fighting the power deficit along with learning how the car acts on a new surface.
"Matthew has a great opportunity to score points for the team here and has shown a steady improvement on his speed over the first two events. Mexico will be a tough challenge for both drivers will require full concentration to help the team maintain a strong position in the championship and continue to assist the BP Ford Abu Dhabi team at the top of the Manufacturer standings," he added.