The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team this weekend tackles OMV ADAC Rallye Deutschland as the first event back in action since the BP Ultimate Acropolis Rally at the start of June and driver Matthew Wilson cant wait to get back behind the wheel of his Ford Focus RS WRC05 on the diverse tarmac challenge that the German event presents.
Nineteen year-old Wilson from Cumbria is rejuvenated and refreshed after the nine-week break since the last event and will once again be joined by 32 year-old co-driver Michael Orr from Bangor, Northern Ireland, as they enter the second half of the 2006 season with eight events taking place over the next four months.
The FIA World Rally Championship visits Germany and Finland this month with intense back-to-back events on different surfaces meaning the season is well and truly back underway. September sees Wilson and the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team compete in Japan and Cyprus, with Japan the venue for the debut of the team in their new car, the Ford Focus RS WRC06.
October takes in Turkey and Australia, whilst November and December have an event a piece in New Zealand and Great Britain respectively. For now the focus is Germany and Wilson will face an intriguing mix of difference surfaces and stages over the course of the three days of competition.
Although the rally is on tarmac, and is the last event of 2006 on that surface, the stages can be of a very different make-up. Vineyard roads, military roads and tree-lined roads are all encountered, each with their own unique challenge. The stages on the first day in the Mosel vineyards are often dirty and their hairpins test hand-braking skills and equipment to the maximum.
The military roads used on day two are rough and dirty as they are used by tanks. The are also lined with tank stopping masonry known as hinkelstein which can do more than merely stop a rally car if hit at speed. The final days roads in the Saarland are far smoother and as such present a real high-speed technical challenge.
The event is located close to Trier, bordering France and Luxembourg, and the local weather adds another element to the challenge with the ever-present possibility of rain too. This is a rally where competitors cannot stop concentrating for a moment.
Joining Wilson in the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team will be Finn Jari Mati Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila, returning to the squad after his last excursion in Rallye de France Tour de Corse in April. The Stobart VK Rally Team will also be in action in the FIA Junior World Rally Championship and the Fiesta SportingTrophy International with Barry Clark and co-driver Scott Martin.
OMV ADAC Rallye Deutschland is followed immediately by Neste Oil Rally Finland which runs from August 18-20 leaving the team with a massive logistical operation to get the cars not only transported to Finland, but also transformed into gravel spec.
Stobart VK M-sport Ford Rally Team driver Matthew Wilson says:
"Its one of the most difficult rallies of the year and Im glad I came out in July with the BP Ford World Rally Team when they tested as I spent time sat next to Marcus Gronholm. I did the recce for the event last year as well and its very challenging with the vineyards and the military roads. There are a lot of junctions and a lot of surface changes and I dont want to think what happens if you hit a hinkelstein!"
Stobart VK M-sport Ford Rally Team driver Jari Mati Latvala says:
"I think that this can be a difficult rally because of the weather. Ive done it three times before and I like it a lot, but it needs a lot of concentration. You have to be careful as the roads change a lot. On the first and third days you can cut the corners a lot which means there can be a lot of gravel and mud on the road which makes it tricky if its wet. On the military roads you cannot cut so much, especially with the hinkelstein. The grip is not so good on the military roads, it feels more like a Finnish gravel rally."
Stobart VK Rally Team driver Barry Clark says:
"Ive just done Rally Isle of Man in the British Rally Championship so I havent really had time to even think about Germany, but well have some good tarmac preparation. It looks like an interesting event and it should be a real challenge. We set quickest times last time out in the Fiesta SportingTrophy so it would be good to do that again on a different surface."