Matthew Wilson is confident he can record a second consecutive top five finish on the Rally Portugal, even if he heads into the final day embroiled in a tussle with charging Stobart team-mate Henning Solberg.
Wilson prevailed in an intense battle with Sebastien Ogier last time out in Cyprus to clinch fifth position, but while retirements mean he has moved up two positions over the course of the day, he is less than a second up on Solberg.
Nonetheless, while Wilson admits he wasn't as comfortable on the Portuguese stages as he was yesterday, he is primed and ready to take on Solberg for the role of top Stobart Ford driver.
“We found the middle stage quite tough both times, the notes didn't just flow right in the fast sections and we were slightly slower through it than the other two stages in the loop,” he said. “But it was great to move up a couple of places from yesterday, and we have had some good splits today. The stages are very tricky, more so than yesterday, but tomorrow's are more like day one and flow much better so I'm hoping that will help us.
“We didn't have any problems today apart from a stall at a hairpin corner when we ran slightly wide and the revs dropped. We lost around ten seconds there and that let Henning get a bit closer to us. It's great to see so many fans out on the stages, there really are some areas which are totally packed.”
Indeed, Solberg has had a fortuitous day, benefitting from Marcus Gronholm and Ogier's retirement, as well as delays for Evgeny Novikov, to jump from ninth to sixth by the end of the leg.
With Wilson now less than a second ahead of him, the Norwegian driver has been pleased with his stealthy drive into contention.
“I knew last night that my position would be an advantage for today and I was right. The car has felt good today and I think maybe I was a bit slower than it was; I was struggling to get the stages to flow and have a nice feeling with the car. But we have improved our overall position from yesterday and everything is feeling better, it's definitely going in the right direction.
“We have done some good times this afternoon and there's now less than a second between us and Matthew in fifth so that will definitely be a really good battle tomorrow. I'm really looking forward to it, for sure we will both be looking for the fifth place but it also means some good points for the Stobart team.”