The streaks of the Sotbart Motorsport team’s cars have become a regular sight on the stages of the World Rally Championship. Established in 2006, the team’s main objective has been to provide a development platform for young talent under the Ford Banner. Some big names like like Matthew Wilson, Jari-Matti Latvala and now Gigi Galli have graced the roll cage of this team’s race cars. The team has started off briliantly, equipped with the latest customer specification Focus RS WRC2007, this team could upset some of the more established players in 2008.
Run by Malcolm Wilson’s M-Sport operation, the Stobart team made its WRC debut in 2006. Drivers Matthew Wilson, Jari-Matti Latvala, Luis Perez Companc, and Kosti Katajamaki were behind the wheels of the startup. The team collected a total of 44 points in the manufacturers’ title chase, beating more experienced drivers of the Red Bull Skoda team to take fifth in the process.
Wilson remained in 2007, but was partnered this time by up-and-coming star Jari-Matti Latvala and proven WRC contender Henning Solberg. While the team had no championship expectations, team boss Malcolm Wilson expected solid results from his drivers, and he certainly wasn’t disappointed.
The team scored points on every single event and on round three of the championships,in Rally Norway, Henning Solberg became the first ever Stobart driver to step onto a WRC podium. Rally Norway was also the highest single-event points haul for the team when Latvala came in fifth - making a total of ten manufacturer points for the event.
Things continued on an upward path as Latvala led Rally d’Italia Sardinia, Rally Japan and his home event of Rally Finland. And by the penultimate round of the season, a consistent finishing record had moved the Stobart team up to third place on the manufacturers’ table - ahead of the Subaru racing team as well. Although it later dropped back behind Subaru on the final round, the team achieved its best result in the manufacturers’ category and had proved its giant-killing potential.
Henning Solberg and Matthew Wilson will continue with the team in 2008 and after Latvala’s promotion to the BP-Ford team, the third seat has been given to Italian superstar Gigi Galli. All three drivers will have upgraded artillery in the form of the Ford Focus RS WRC 07; an evolution model of the 06 specification used by the team last year.
Galli will be the team’s nominated points scorer for the whole season, while on the opening round in Monte-Carlo, Francois Duval, in a fourth Stobart car, will be the second scorer. From Sweden onwards, nominations will be decided rally by rally.