Fiesta time as Ford and McRae win in Spain Ford Martini drivers Colin McRae and Nicky Grist today won Spain's Catalunya Rally in their Ford Focus World Rally Car after a thrilling three-car battle during the final leg in the mountains north of...
Fiesta time as Ford and McRae win in Spain
Ford Martini drivers Colin McRae and Nicky Grist today won Spain's Catalunya Rally in their Ford Focus World Rally Car after a thrilling three-car battle during the final leg in the mountains north of Barcelona. Team-mates Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya finished third in another Focus and the double podium finish on this fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship lifted the Ford Martini team into second in the series standings.
With both Focus cars performing faultlessly during the three-day 1874km event, the Ford Martini team claimed victory on eight of the 15 speed tests. McRae scored five wins with Spaniard Sainz, thrilling his thousands of home fans gathered in the special stages to urge him on, taking three.
With McRae, Sainz and Richard Burns covered by just a handful of seconds at this morning's restart, those fans witnessed furious action over today's four stages. Such was the pace of the duelling trio that with just two tests remaining less than six seconds covered them.
Thirty-one-year-old McRae started the final speed test 5.9sec ahead of his British rival and both cars posted exactly the same time over the 18.34km of mountain roads to ensure McRae's 19th world championship victory and his third with the Ford Martini team. Madrid-based Sainz finished just 11.7sec behind his team-mate for his third podium finish of the season.
"I'd forgotten what it feels like to win," said McRae, whose last success was in Portugal in March 1999. "I was confident we could do it going into the final stage but there's always that small worry. I knew it wouldn't be the quickest time but I felt it would be enough to beat Richard. If the Focus continues to run like this for the rest of the year, I'll be very happy and we must concentrate on taking the fight to Richard over the next few rallies," added the Scot.
Sainz, too, was in celebratory mood. "It's the first time we've had both Focus cars at the finish this season and that's very important. I've learned an awful lot about the car on this rally and with every event I feel better and better with it. Now I hope that on the next rally we can improve and score a one - two finish - with us ahead of Colin!" he said.
Ford Martini team director Malcolm Wilson hailed the result as 'two great performances by two great drivers'. "It's a big relief to be on the winner's step again because we've been knocking on the door all season. The potential has always been there and it's encouraging we have so many exciting developments for the future. We have a long way to go yet with performance.
"Everyone in the team has worked hard for this, but especially Carlos who has completed so much of the testing and development work. After the difficulties of the last 12 months this is a very special moment for us all," added Wilson.
Martin Whitaker, European director of Ford Racing added: "We've known all along how quick the Focus is and that we have the right driver combination and it's wonderful for everything to come together. Everybody in the team has worked so hard for this, especially the engineers and technicians at M Sport, who have stuck it out, ridden the criticism and worked to their maximum during the difficult times."
News from our Rivals
Behind the leading trio Tommi Makinen (Mitsubishi), Marcus Gronholm and Gilles Panizzi (both Peugeot) took the final drivers' points, despite Panizzi slipping behind his team-mate after incurring a one minute penalty at the final service park. Francois Delecour (Peugeot) dropped out of the drivers' points when his car became jammed in third gear on the penultimate stage. He also collected an additional minute's penalty for arriving at the start of the final stage with his seat-belt incorrectly fastened after working on his car until the final possible moment. The only major retirement today was Luis Climent (Skoda) who spoiled his team's 100 per cent finishing record this season after crashing out on the penultimate stage.
The FIA World Rally Championship switches to south America for the sixth round, the city of Cordoba hosting the Rally Argentina on 11 - 14 May. After the asphalt here in Spain, the series returns to an all-gravel format for the only series counter to be held in the Americas.
<pre> Final positions 1. C McRae/N Grist GB Ford Focus 4hr 07 min 13.0 sec 2. R Burns/R Reid GB Subaru Impreza 4hr 07 min 18.9 sec 3. C Sainz/L Moya E Ford Focus 4hr 07 min 24.7 sec 4. T Makinen/R Mannisenmaki FIN Mitsubishi Lancer 4hr 07 min 53.2 sec 5. M Gronholm/T Rautiainen FIN Peugeot 206 4hr 09 min 04.7 sec 6. G Panizzi/H Panizzi F Peugeot 206 4hr 09 min 23.9 sec 7. F Loix/S Smeets B Mitsubishi Carisma 4hr 11 min 25.5 sec 8. F Delecour/D Grataloup F Peugeot 206 4hr 11 min 49.4 sec 9. A Navarra/S Fedeli I Toyota Corolla 4hr 12 min 18.4 sec 10 M Martin/M Park EE Toyota Corolla 4hr 12 min 42.0 sec
2000 FIA World Rally Championship (after round 5 of 14) Drivers 1. R Burns 28pts 2. T Makinen 19pts 3. M Gronholm 18pts 4. C Sainz 17pts 5. C McRae 14pts 6. J Kankkunen 11pts
Manufacturers 1. Subaru 41pts 2. Ford 31pts 3. Mitsubishi 24pts 4. Peugeot 22pts 5. Seat 7pts 6. Skoda 5pts