Champion Ford Aims For Second Rally Crown
Ford aims to capture its second 2001 UK rally championship title next weekend (9-10 November) when three Rapid Fit Puma Super 1600 rally cars contest the Prodrive Banbury Rally. Already the Formula Rally champion manufacturer after scoring its fourth win in Scotland on Saturday, Ford now intends to claim the drivers' crown at the final round of the seven-event series. Going into the 190 mile Banbury Rally, Ford Puma driver and current championship leader Martin Rowe takes a two-point advantage over arch-rival Justin Dale to the Oxfordshire event and both drivers will want to win the title with a resounding victory. Ford drivers Francois Duval and Patrick Magaud hold third and fourth places in the points battle and both will be in action in Banbury as Ford fields a three-strong team of Pumas.
A winner three times in Formula Rally this season, 1998 British Rally Champion Rowe is determined to win again next weekend. "We had to win in Scotland to boost our championship hopes and we came away with 10 hard-won points, the manufacturers' title and the drivers' title lead. The Banbury Rally has lots of short special stages, so we'll need to be on maximum pace, going as fast as possible, every moment of the event. My Puma ran faultlessly in Scotland and with the right choice of tyres I'm confident we can beat off any challenge to bring Ford a championship double."
In Oxfordshire, the second Rapid-Fit Puma will once again be driven by Rowe's regular Ford team mate, French ace Patrick Magaud. He came home an excellent third in Scotland to give Ford a double-podium finish. Young Belgian ace Francois Duval - winner of the Kent Rally in October - returns to the UK at the wheel of the third Puma.
For the seven-round Formula Rally series, 29-year old Rowe is co-driven by the highly experienced Chris Wood, while 42-year old Magaud is co-driven by his wife Guylene Brun. The three Pumas for the Banbury Rally are prepared by Boreham-based Ford Racing and will carry the bright yellow and blue colours of the Ford Motor Company's 'walk-in' fast-fit service operation - Rapid Fit.
Engineering Manager of Ford Racing, Philip Dunabin, is keen to make it two championship titles for Ford in one week. "By winning The Formula Jim Clark Rally we captured the manufacturers' championship crown with one round remaining. Now we'll be pushing hard in Banbury to help Martin win the drivers' crown and we'll enter a third Rapid Fit Puma for Francois Duval to ensure that Martin has maximum support in his championship quest. To win both the Formula Rally titles in the first year of this all-new series has always been our aim and we are on course to achieve that goal."
The Prodrive Banbury Rally, 10 November 2001 Starting and finishing in the very heart of Banbury, the Prodrive Banbury Rally will take Formula Rally competitors through 14 special stages, covering a total of 42 miles. First car will leave the 'ceremonial' starting ramp in Horse Fair at 19.00 hrs on Friday. Saturday's action begins at 09.00 when cars leave the ramp once again and head for special stage action at seven locations. Two service halts back in central Banbury are scheduled at 13.15 & 16.15, with surviving cars reaching the finish at 18.30 hrs after driving more than 190 miles.
Championship Positions (after round 6 of 7*)
1 Martin Rowe 40 pts. 2 Justin Dale 38 points. 3 Patrick Magaud 15 pts. 4 Francois Duval 14 pts. 5 Martin Sansom & Mats Andersson & Simon Mauger 9 pts. 8 David Higgins 7 pts. 9 David Henderson 4 pts. 10 Michael Brew 3 pts. 11 Garry Jennings & Paul Wedgbury 2 pts. 13 Rory Galligan 1 pt.
1 Ford 95 points (Champions). 2 Peugeot 85 pts. 3 Proton 45 pts. 4 Volkswagen 33 pts.
* only 5 scores from seven rounds may be counted.