M-Sport Ford World Rally Team
Owner: Malcolm Wilson
2006 was the first season of a full campaign in the WRC with a two-car Manufacturer 2 squad under the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team moniker. Matthew Wilson, who was the only British driver contesting a full season of the WRC, led the charge with Pieter Tsjoen, Kosti Katajamaki, Luis Perez Companc and Jari-Matti Latvala joining him at various times through the season.
2007 saw the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team contest the full 16-round season, with Matthew Wilson and Michael Orr joined by the Norwegian crew of Henning Solberg and Cato Menkerud, and the Finnish crew of Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila. The Stobart team enjoyed a year-long tussle with Subaru for third place in the Manufacturers' championship, and were only just beaten to the podium spot on the final event in Wales.
The team scored points on every single event as it continually wrote new records for the Stobart history books. Solberg kicked off proceedings on his home event in Norway by being the first ever Stobart driver to step onto a WRC podium; he re-lived the feat once more in Japan on his first outing to the east Asian Isle. Rally Norway was also the highest single-event points haul for the team when Latvala came in fifth to make it ten manufacturer points for the event. Latvala stunned crowds to give the Stobart team another first; its first ever rally lead, as he came into Service A of Rally Sardinia in top spot. The Finnish sensation then managed the feat twice more in Japan, where he led after leg 1, and on his home event of Rally Finland. He bagged his first ever podium at Rally Ireland, which also saw the first Stobart liveried car over the podium ramp in WRC history.
In 2008, the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team contested a full 15-round campaign, with Cumbrian crew Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin joined again by Norwegians Henning Solberg and Cato Menkerud, and Italian duo Gigi Galli and co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini providing fresh faces in the squad.
Galli ensured the season kicked off in positive fashion when he scored the team's first podium in Sweden, while Solberg and Wilson also secured strong points finishes in the first half of the season. However, the team received a major setback when Galli was seriously injured in a crash at Rally Deutschland - breaking his pelvis when his Focus WRC hit a tree after he struck a rock on the stage and left the road.
François Duval, who scored a podium for Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team in Germany, was drafted in to the squad full-time to replace Galli for the remainder of the 2008 season. The Belgian went on to make a strong contribution to the team by scoring a fourth place finish in Catalunya and claiming third overall in Corsica. The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team finished the season fourth in the Manufacturer Championship, and with four of its star drivers inside the top-ten in the Drivers' championship standings.
The team finished the season on a high at Wales Rally GB when it was joined by MotoGP superstar Valentino Rossi to celebrate its 50th outing in the World Rally Championship. The team's iconic livery was also on display at the Race of Champions when two of its Stobart Ford Focus RS world rally cars were driven by the best-of-the-best at Wembley Stadium in England.
The success of the Stobart Motorsport was recognised at the prestigious 2008 Motorsport Industry Association Awards. It received the accolade of Rally Business of the Year in recognition of successfully maximising its investment in the FIA World Rally Championship. The MIA highlighted the fact that despite only having a budget that was comparatively a fraction of the manufacturer-backed teams, Stobart Motorsport had successfully established itself as an outstanding performer both on and off the stages and had become a huge fan favourite across the world.
Stobart Motorsport contested in all 12 rounds of the 2009 FIA World Rally Championship with three Ford Focus RS WRC cars under Manufacturer Team status. Matthew Wilson - Britain's only full-time driver in the WRC and the youngest-ever driver to win a WRC stage and score a drivers' point - contested his fourth full season in the WRC during 2009. Fellow Cumbrian Scott Martin returned as Wilson’s co-driver. Norwegian Henning Solberg also competed with Stobart Motorsport, partnered again by fellow countryman Cato Menkerud.
Stobart Motorsport welcomed a new face in 2009 with the addition of Estonian pilot Urmo Aava, who contested in eight rounds as part of the squad. Aava enjoyed an impressive 2009 season in the WRC, taking a number of stage wins and achieving a career-best fourth place on the Acropolis Rally. Aava's rising popularity was demonstrated when he was voted Driver of the Year by visitors to www.wrc.com in 2009. He was joined by compatriot, Kuldar Sikk, as co-driver.
In 2010 the Stobart M-Sport Ford World Rally Team continued to contest all 13 rounds of the WRC. Henning Solberg was joined by a new co-driver, Ilka Minor, whilst Matthew Wilson and Scott Martin continued to compete in all thirteen rounds. An accident in the year meant Minor was replaced by Stephane Prevot as Solberg’s co-driver for the year’s final three events.
Solberg contested four of the tarmac rounds of the 2010 WRC calendar -- Bulgaria, Germany, Spain and France -- in an Expert supported Ford Fiesta S2000. The Norwegian continued to be entered under the Stobart M-Sport banner, but was not nominated to score Manufacturer points. As a consequence, two-time WRC Champion Marcus Gronholm drove the Stobart Ford Focus RS WRC at Rally Sweden, with four-time WRC Champion, Juha Kankkunen, joining the Stobart M-Sport family for the 2010 Neste Oil Rally Finland. Kankkunen was joined by Mattias Therman in Finland whilst PG-Andersson joined the team for Rally Bulgaria, Francois Duval for the ADAC Rallye Deutschland and Ken Block for the 2010 Rallye de France.
In 2011, the team changed its name to the M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team and welcomed the Scandinavian pairing of Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson into the squad alongside Solberg and Wilson. In a record year for the team, Østberg became the first M-Sport Stobart driver to lead a rally when he led Rally Sweden after the first two days of competition. The team also secured three podium finished with Østberg securing second place in Sweden and GB and Solberg equaling his career-best third at Wales Rally GB.