Ford lands 1-2 success on Acropolis Rally Ford Martini World Rally Team drivers Colin McRae and Nicky Grist and team-mates Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya finished first and second on the Acropolis Rally which finished this afternoon. Their Ford...
Ford lands 1-2 success on Acropolis Rally
Ford Martini World Rally Team drivers Colin McRae and Nicky Grist and team-mates Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya finished first and second on the Acropolis Rally which finished this afternoon. Their Ford Focus World Rally Cars dominated this seventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship and were never headed after moving into one-two formation early on the first leg of the three-day event.
Such was Ford's domination on the toughest European round of the championship that McRae, Sainz and Ford colleague Petter Solberg scored 14 stage victories from the 19 speed tests, Solberg and co-driver Phil Mills topping the tally with six wins in their Focus World Rally Car. A Focus posted fastest time on each of today's seven stages.
As nine of the 14 manufacturer cars entered were forced into retirement by a combination of the heat and the gruelling rock-strewn roads in the Greek mountains, neither McRae nor Sainz suffered any major problems. The 31-year-old Scot won by 23.1 seconds and remarkably, in an era when top positions are usually decided by just a handful of seconds, third placed Juha Kankkunen trailed McRae by more than 6min 38sec.
This was McRae's second victory in three rallies and lifted him into second in the drivers' standings. Maximum points for Ford Martini ensured they remain second in the manufacturers' series, having slashed the gap to the leaders.
"I'm obviously very happy with this victory, not just the fact that we have won but in the way Ford has controlled the event from the very start," said 31-year-old McRae, who posted five quickest times. "The number of retirements shows just how tough this rally has been. The Focus has never missed a beat and I've felt very relaxed all day because I have complete trust in the team. This win has come at exactly the right time because it re-opens the championship and we'll go into the second half of the season with confidence."
Sainz, winner of three stages on the rally, was equally untroubled on an event in which he scored his first world championship victory 10 years ago. "It's a great result for the Ford Martini team although I'm sad it was not me taking the victory and I promise you that on the next rally I'll be trying even harder. Everyone in the team has been working so hard to make this result possible but we know that we cannot relax. We must continue with our development work to ensure the improvement continues and ensure that we can reproduce this sort of result again during the rest of the season."
Solberg and Mills set fastest time on five of today's seven stages and fought their way back to 11th overall. However, a broken front differential just as they arrived at the final service park in Parnassos brought about their retirement, but not before his string of fastest times provided further evidence of the potential of the 25-year-old Norwegian driver.
Ford Martini team director Malcolm Wilson was overjoyed at the team's first one-two success since the Rally of Indonesia in 1997. "To score maximum points on what has turned out to be the most difficult round of the championship to date is a superb achievement. It's a great relief after our recent problems. Colin produced a really professional and polished performance and Carlos drove with the utmost skill.
"After the first two stages this morning we imposed team orders to ensure both cars arrived at the finish in their overnight positions. Colin immediately slowed down to preserve his car whereas Carlos decided to maintain a fast pace to keep his concentration and guard against any silly mistakes. This has opened up both the drivers' and manufacturers' championships and there's all to play for," he said.
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After two days of problems for all the manufacturer teams except Ford, the final leg was kinder to most. Richard Burns (Subaru) was the only major retirement after limping through today's opening stage with a broken turbo. He finally retired when the engine refused to start for the next test. Team-mate Juha Kankkunen moved ahead of Toshihiro Arai, although fourth was an excellent result for the Japanese privateer while Armin Schwarz (Skoda) recorded his best result with the Czech team in fifth. Despite yesterday's problems, Francois Delecour climbed back into the top 10 and took the final manufacturer points as only five eligible cars finished.
The Ford Martini team faces its longest journey of the season for round eight of the FIA World Rally Championship. The second half of the season begins when Auckland hosts the Rally New Zealand from 13 -16 July.
<pre> Final positions 1. C McRae/N Grist GB Ford Focus 4hr 56min 54.8sec 2. C Sainz/L Moya E Ford Focus 4hr 57min 17.9sec 3. J Kankkunen/J Repo FIN Subaru Impreza 5hr 03min 33.1sec 4. T Arai/R Freeman J Subaru Impreza 5hr 04min 35.6sec 5. A Schwarz/M Hiemer D Skoda Octavia 5hr 06min 05.8sec 6. A Bakhashab/B Willis SA Toyota Corolla 5hr 09min 49.7sec 7. J P Richelmi/T Barjou MC Subaru Impreza 5hr 10min 28.1sec 8. F Dor/D Breton F Subaru Impreza 5hr 10min 54.6sec 9. F Delecour/D Grataloup F Peugeot 206 5hr 12min 07.1sec 10 J Papadimitriou/N Petropoulos GR Subaru Impreza 5hr 13min 16.4sec
2000 FIA World Rally Championship (after round 7 of 14) Drivers 1. R Burns 38pts 2. C McRae 24pts 3. M Grönholm 24pts 4. T Mäkinen 23pts 5. C Sainz 23pts 6. J Kankkunen 18pts
Manufacturers 1. Subaru 58pts 2. Ford 47pts 3. Peugeot 31pts 4. Mitsubishi 29pts 5. Skoda 8pts 6. Seat 7pts