The Stobart M-Sport Ford World Rally Team is looking for a strong end to the 2010 World Rally Championship as the season concludes with Wales Rally GB, the team's home round.
The event will be the last for the Ford Focus RS WRC, which the Stobart squad has run since its debut as a fully-fledged WRC team in 2006, scoring seven podium finishes.
As the leading British driver in the WRC, Matthew Wilson will be looking for a good performance on his home event. The 23-year-old will be making his seventh start on Wales Rally GB, and will be aiming to match his best result of the season so far – fifth in Jordan.
“I love to finish each WRC season on home territory,” he said. “The British fans are fantastic and I always aim to go out there and produce a really good performance. I've really enjoyed this season and I've definitely learned a lot. It's sad this Wales will be the last time I'll be competing at a WRC event in the Focus RS WRC – it's like the end of an era. I remember some of the first Focus cars with Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae behind the wheel and it feels like I've grown up with the car.
“Next week I've just got to go there and enjoy myself as much as I can. I'd like to get as close to the podium as possible – whether that's a fourth, fifth or sixth I don't mind but it'd be good to finish the season and my last WRC event driving the Ford Focus RS WRC on a high.”
During the lead up to the event, Wilson took part in the inaugural RallyFest North Wales, which took place at Llandudno to help promote the rally itself. Wilson can be seen in action here.
Henning Solberg will return to his regular slot as the second nominated points-scorer for Stobart M-Sport Ford. He has competed in the Super 2000 Ford Fiesta on the last couple of rounds in France and Spain, winning his class and scoring overall WRC points on both occasions. He will be co-driven by Belgian Stephane Prevot, who covers for the injured Ilka Minor.
The Norwegian said: “I had my best ever finish in Wales last year so I'm hoping that this year will be just as good – it would be nice to finish in the top five again. It will be sad to say goodbye to the Focus RS WRC – it's been a great car and I've had four podium finishes whilst competing with it so, for sure, I've had some great memories. But next year is an interesting time for the WRC and I think the new cars will make it even more exciting for the spectators. We've had a really fantastic season, as has the team, and it's important to finish well in Wales for my sponsors.”
The team will run a third Focus RS WRC in Wales for Chinese driver Liu Chao Dong and Australian co-driver Anthony McLoughlin. It will be the 25-year-old's fourth WRC appearance, but his first event in a World Rally Car.
“I'm very excited for next week's rally,” he said. “I was a bit unlucky on my last two WRC events but I am looking forward to Wales Rally GB as it is such an iconic event. I had a test at M-Sport in the Ford Focus RS WRC last month – it was very good but extremely different to a Group N car which is what I am used to driving. It had so much power but there is a lot I need to learn about the car – I am looking forward to getting to know more at Wales Rally GB. We did the recce for this rally in 2007 so I have some knowledge of the event and what to expect – it's not completely unknown to me but I think it could be tricky because of the weather which will makes the roads very slippery.”
Malcolm Wilson, Ford Team Principal and M-Sport boss, said: “It has been another successful season for the Stobart M-Sport Ford Rally Team and we've had some fantastic highlights this year. It was a real joy to have the legendary Juha Kankkunen join Matthew and Henning for Rally Finland in July and it was fantastic to see FranÃ§ois Duval back in the squad for Rallye Deutschland. The team strive to offer opportunities to drivers across the globe and we are delighted that China's Liu Chao Dong will join us for this year's Wales Rally GB. Liu Chao Dong visited M-Sport last month to test the Focus RS WRC and the team were very impressed with the pace and times that he was setting whilst here. Wales Rally GB is going to be a huge challenge but Dong is a very focused individual with years of experience competing in the Chinese Rally Championship. I have little doubt that Henning, Matthew and Dong's commitment and dedication will pay off when they tackle the final round of the FIA World Rally Championship next week.”