09 t/m 11 juli 2010 WRC RallyBulgarije

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Einduitslag na dag 3:

Ford Focus duo takes double points haul in Rally Bulgaria,

BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team drivers Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen and team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila finished fifth and sixth respectively in Rally Bulgaria today. It was the first occasion that Bulgaria has hosted a round of the FIA World Rally Championship and the asphalt roads in the mountains near Sofia provided a stern test for the Focus RS World Rally Car pair.

Rally Bulgaria was the first sealed surface round of the WRC since October last year. It was based in Borovets, the country's old ski resort, and the route offered 14 speed tests covering 354.10km over three days of competition. One special stage was cancelled during the second leg for safety reasons, reducing the competitive distance to 329.24km. Blistering heat was expected but drivers encountered rain, fog and cool temperatures until the thermometer finally rose to higher levels on today's last leg.

Hirvonen ended the opening day in fourth, finding increased pace during the afternoon after lowering the suspension settings on his Focus RS WRC. However, he dropped a place on the leaderboard early in the second leg after a poor tyre choice. The team's detailed weather information provided by an expert weather service in Britain suggested dry conditions for the opening test, but Pirelli's hard compound PZero tyres were totally unsuited when the roads turned out to be wet.

The 29-year-old Finn lost a minute and, with no realistic opportunity of regaining that time, he settled for a solid points finish. "I had a good feeling with the car and enjoyed the stages, which were extremely fast in places. But the times weren't as good as we hoped, so we have to keep working hard to improve. With no chance of moving up today, we tested a few things for future rallies. Today was better and I think we learned something that will help on the remaining asphalt rallies," he said.

"Fifth brings good points for the team but I hoped for more. Now I'm looking forward to my home rally in Finland later this month where I want to fight for a win," added Hirvonen.

Latvala ended the first day in fifth, just 10.3sec behind his team-mate, after stiffening his car's suspension settings midway through the leg. The 25-year-old Finn made the same tyre choice yesterday morning and also lost a minute, and a damaged power steering system in the afternoon loop cost another 30 seconds. He, too, settled for a cautious drive through the final leg.

"I tested soft compound tyres this morning as an experiment to see how they would work in these conditions," he said. "The car was unbalanced and I switched to harder tyres for the final two stages. It was a difficult weekend but I had a clear run and made no mistakes. I can take confidence from finishing after my retirement in Portugal on the last round. I was hoping for a place in the top five, so I'm a little disappointed not to achieve that.

"My driving on asphalt has improved since last year. Earlier in the season I raced in the Nürburgring 24 Hours race and that helped on the asphalt here. When I drove on a circuit with other cars around and sometimes saw them going faster, I realised I might be taking the wrong line in some corners or could exit bends more quickly. It was a good learning process," he added.

BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team director Malcolm Wilson admitted he was disappointed with the weekend. "We completed intensive testing during the summer and after all the hard work we hoped for better from this rally. However, I'm pleased to see that Jari-Matti has improved his pace on asphalt and that's a positive to take away from here with three more asphalt rallies to come," he said.

Ford of Europe motorsport chief Gerard Quinn said: "To finish with both cars in the points is always good, but it doesn't hide the fact that this was a disappointing weekend. We're not happy with the performance of the car here and we know we need to do some work with our rally partners M-Sport to improve the performance."

The double points haul in this seventh round of the series keeps the BP Ford Abu Dhabi squad in second place in the manufacturers' championship. Hirvonen and Latvala remain third and fourth in the drivers' standings with six rounds remaining.

News from other Ford teams

Stobart M-Sport Ford debutants P-G Andersson and Jonas Andersson finished seventh in a Focus RS World Rally Car after a troublefree rally. Team-mates Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin were ninth. The Ford Fiesta S2000 clinched first and second in the Group N category. Henning Solberg and Ilka Minor were 10th overall in their debut in the orange car, with Dennis Kuipers and Fred Miclotte taking second in 13th overall.

Next round

The championship returns to gravel later this month for one of the sport's classic events. Rally Finland, complete with its high speed roller coaster jumps, is based in Jyväskylä on 29 - 31 July.

Bron | M-Sport

De stand na dag 2:

Tyre choice the key as weather turns against Ford in Bulgaria

BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team drivers Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen and team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila finished today's second leg of Rally Bulgaria in fifth and sixth respectively after a tough day in the mountains south of Sofia. Inconsistent weather made tyre selection tricky for the asphalt roads as drivers and teams juggled their options for speed tests held several hours after making their selections.

Today was the longest of this seventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship, Bulgaria's maiden appearance in the series. The route offered two identical loops of three special stages covering 140.90km east of the rally base in Borovets, the country's oldest ski resort. However, the final stage of the morning loop was cancelled for safety reasons due to the number of fans clustered at the finish and the day's competition was reduced to 116.04km.

Both Hirvonen, lying fourth in a Ford Focus RS World Rally car after yesterday's opening leg, and Latvala, one place behind, opted for Pirelli's hard compound PZero tyres for the first loop in the expectation of dry weather. However, the opening 27.46km Sestrimo test in the mountains was cool, foggy and damp after localised showers fell before the test started – conditions unsuited to hard rubber – and the Finns lost more than a minute each to the fastest drivers.

As the route crossed the valley the weather improved and warm sunshine and predominantly dry roads greeted competitors. The hard compound was more suited to the better conditions and the performance from the Focus RS WRC duo improved. Ironically, the last stage of the loop was the hottest and driest of all but neither Hirvonen nor Latvala could take advantage after the cancellation. The time loss dropped Hirvonen and Latvala to fifth and sixth respectively after the morning's action.

"With the information we had from our weather service and our safety crew, hard tyres were the only option," explained 25-year-old Latvala. "Until I reached the start of the first test the roads were dry, then conditions became damp and I knew it would be difficult in the stage. I made the damper settings softer before the next stage and the driving was easier as a result. It's a pity the last test was cancelled because it was dry and hot and the roads would have been perfectly suited to our tyres."

With more uncertainty over the afternoon weather, the Ford pair again opted for the dry, hard compound option. It was the perfect choice and Hirvonen extended his advantage over his fellow countryman from 8.1sec at lunchtime to 42.7sec at the end of the day. The unfortunate Latvala had to wrestle his car through the final two tests with a damaged pipe in the power steering system.

"In the long corners I had no power in my arms to hold onto the steering wheel. It was better in the less twisty, faster sections. In the final stage I had nothing left in my arms, and I needed more than in the previous stage because the road was so bumpy. My priority now is to visit our physiotherapist! I'm frustrated because I felt I drove well. Before the power steering problem my times were closer to Mikko than on previous asphalt rallies, so I think I have improved on this surface," added Latvala.

Hirvonen echoed his colleague's thoughts. "I was unlucky on the opening stage. I made the tyre selection according to the information I had. This afternoon was much better with the correct tyres on dry roads. If you take away the tyre trouble, I had a stable day. It's a difficult rally. The roads here are a mix of the type we encounter on other rounds but I enjoyed the challenge and they're fun to drive. Tomorrow I hope we can find a good rhythm and have a clean run to a solid points finish," he said.

BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson explained that the morning's tyre choice was based on information provided by an expert weather service in Britain, which provides highly detailed forecasts to the team specific to the rally area. "The service has always been very good and this morning we received confident advice that there would be no rain. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case and our tyres were totally wrong for the cold, damp conditions," he said.
"Jari-Matti did a great job this afternoon with no power steering. Our performance this afternoon was better, but it's still not where we want to be," added Wilson.

News from other Ford teams

Stobart M-Sport Ford debutants P-G Andersson and Jonas Andersson retained seventh in a Focus RS WRC, despite opting for the wrong tyres this morning. He also hit a rock on the penultimate test but no damage was caused. Team-mates Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin remain ninth, their only major problem coming on the second stage this morning when they incurred a 10 second penalty for a jump start after their car's launch control system malfunctioned.

Tomorrow’s Route

The final leg is the shortest of the rally, covering just 94.52km. Drivers restart from Dolna Banya at 08.00 and tackle two identical loops of two tests north-east of the town, split by a return to the service park. The finish is in Borovets at 14.00.

Bron | M-Sport

Stand na dag 1:

Ford duo shakes off asphalt rust as Bulgaria debuts in WRC,

BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team rediscovered its feel for asphalt competition today as Rally Bulgaria made its debut in the FIA World Rally Championship. It is 278 days since the last sealed-surface round of the series concluded in Spain in October last year, and drivers Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen and team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila shook off the rust to end the opening leg in fourth and fifth respectively.

The ski resort of Borovets, the oldest in Bulgaria and 60km south of Sofia, hosts this seventh round of the 13-rally series. Heavy rain dampened last night's start ceremony in nearby Samokov, but the roads were virtually dry as the 43 competitors set out for the first of three days' action this morning. They tackled two identical loops of two speed tests covering 118.68km around the picturesque Batak and Belmeken reservoirs, south-east of Borovets, climbing to an altitude of 2100 metres.

The BP Ford Abu Dhabi drivers were evenly matched throughout the day. After the opening loop of special stages 29-year-old Hirvonen led his fellow Finn by 5.1sec in sixth and seventh respectively. Hirvonen lowered the suspension settings on his Focus RS WRC during the lunchtime service halt, while Latvala stiffened the settings at the front of his car and both showed improved pace over the afternoon tests to climb the order. They ended the day separated by 10.3sec.

"I wasn't so confident with my pace notes this morning, sometimes they were too fast for the roads and sometimes too slow," said Hirvonen. "The car felt good when conditions were dirty and damp. I tried to be neat and tidy and take racing lines but the times weren't as good as I hoped. The afternoon was better. The changes we made to the set-up helped and I also drove better. I was more committed and aggressive at the wheel, although I made a few small mistakes.
"The slippery sections seem to be better for us than the dry roads so perhaps rain over the next two days would help. The team worked hard during the summer break and the car feels better in some areas. I think that my asphalt driving has also improved so we'll continue to push tomorrow and try to close the gap on those ahead of us," added Hirvonen, who opted for Pirelli's hard compound PZero tyres throughout the day.

Latvala selected the same tyre option and the 25-year-old felt his performance improved as the day progressed. "I made no mistakes this morning but I felt I could improve my driving. The afternoon was better and my times improved. I was driving pretty much at the same speed as Mikko all day. The roads were wet, muddy and covered in gravel in places this afternoon and I'm glad we had safety crews in place to relay that information to us before we drove the stages," he said.

"This morning when I entered long corners under braking the car felt a little unbalanced, too soft at the front and lifting at the rear. The team made the car harder at the front to help the stability under braking. It was better, but still too soft so we'll make it even stiffer for tomorrow. If the settings are stiffer then the car should be more precise and stable at the front," added Latvala.
BP Ford Abu Dhabi team director Malcolm Wilson admitted he was encouraged by the improved performances during the afternoon. "I was disappointed with the way we started, taking into account the testing and work we have done during the summer break. But I was pleased with the way we improved on the final two stages. The changes we made at the lunchtime service made a difference and we'll look at the data tonight and see if we should make more changes tomorrow," he said.

News from other Ford teams

P-G Andersson and Jonas Andersson, making their debuts for the Stobart M-Sport Ford team, are seventh in a Focus RS WRC. The Swedes made a cautious start and stiffened the settings on their car for the afternoon stages. Team-mates Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin are ninth, the British pair struggling to reacclimatise to asphalt after such a long time away from the surface.

Tomorrow’s Route

The second leg again revisits territory east of the Dolna Banya service park. The opening two stages contain sections of road used today, but in the opposite direction, while the other stage is located further north. After restarting at 07.00, drivers complete two identical loops of the three tests before returning to Dolna Banya for the final overnight halt at 18.18. Overnight rain is forecast but it is again expected to clear before the action begins.

Bron | M-Sport

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