GrÃ¶nholm preserves Ford's record run in Argentine pampas Ford extended its record-breaking run of points finishes in the FIA World Rally Championship to 66 when Marcus GrÃ¶nholm and Timo Rautiainen finished 10th on Rally Argentina today. The...
Grönholm preserves Ford's record run in Argentine pampas
Ford extended its record-breaking run of points finishes in the FIA World Rally Championship to 66 when Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen finished 10th on Rally Argentina today. The Finns recovered from first-day transmission troubles while leading to climb back onto the leaderboard and claim a manufacturer point to extend the longest scoring run in the history of the FIA World Rally Championship.
The run dates back to the opening round of the 2002 series in Monte Carlo and all 66 points finishes have been achieved with a Ford Focus RS World Rally Car.
This sixth round of the 16-rally series was based in Córdoba, 700km north of Buenos Aires. Three days of demanding gravel speed tests across the vast pampas covered 351.44km, and fog and rain yesterday posed an additional challenge to drivers. A spectacular purpose-built super special stage in Córdoba's soccer stadium started the competition on Thursday night and brought it to a close today, attracting more than 40,000 fans and a huge live worldwide TV audience on each occasion.
Today's final leg opened with two of the championship's most famous special stages. The rough and rocky Giulio Cesare and El Condor are unlike anything else encountered during the season. Narrow ribbons of road wind through a spectacular moonlike landscape, reaching 2195 metres.
Grönholm started the day in 10th, with no realistic opportunity to better his position, following Friday's time loss. He took no chances on the rock-strewn stages, finishing Giulio Cesare third and El Condor in second. The 38-year-old Finn was then fastest on the penultimate stage, his seventh fastest time and more than any other driver on the rally.
"The time loss on Friday was a shame and left us struggling for a result," he said. "Tenth gave the team a point but it obviously wasn't what I wanted and I'm disappointed. I had hoped for more. At least I was able to come back and set several fastest times over the second and third legs and show again that the car has plenty of pace. The rally wasn't hard on tyres, despite the long sections with no opportunity to fit new rubber, and our engineers and those from BFGoodrich made some good choices. The stage in the soccer stadium was a spectacular show. As a driver, it's great to perform in front of so many people in such a great atmosphere."
Team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen retired their Focus RS on the opening leg with engine problems when third. The damage was too great for them to restart under SupeRally rules.
BP-Ford team director Malcolm Wilson said: "I'm happy that we have kept our points record but disappointed because that is all we've managed to salvage from this weekend, especially when we've shown that we can take the challenge to Loeb. The performance of the Focus RS was again a positive and we found a solution to Marcus' problem and ran the car faultlessly for two days. It's a shame for Mikko that he didn't gain the experience of running a full rally after he retired on Friday."
Ford TeamRS director Jost Capito was encouraged by Grönholm's seven stage victories. "But it's disappointing that we led the rally and scored the most stage wins but our pace wasn't reflected in the results. We must continue to work hard to overcome these teething problems with the new car."
Nineteen-year-old Matthew Wilson scored his first WRC stage win when he was fastest on the final stage. Driving a privately-entered Focus RS for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford team, Wilson and co-driver Michael Orr went into the final two stadium tests 3.0sec behind team-mates Luis Perez Companc and Jose-Maria Volta. But the Briton's pace moved him ahead into eighth, earning his first WRC drivers' point.
News from our Rivals
Sébastien Loeb (Citroen) claimed his fourth consecutive victory to widen his championship lead to 21 points. The Frenchman cruised through the final day to head Petter Solberg (Subaru) by 44.6sec. The Norwegian was penalised 10 seconds on the penultimate stage for a jump start. Gigi Galli (Peugeot) secured his first WRC podium on only his second rally in the car. Manfred Stohl (Peugeot) overtook team-mate Henning Solberg on the opening stage this morning to ensure fourth and a happy birthday for Austrian co-driver Ilka Minor. However, with fifth secure, Solberg stopped on the final stage in Córdoba stadium with a broken clutch and dropped to seventh. Chris Atkinson (Subaru) was handed a 60 second penalty last night for speeding in the service park, which dropped him to seventh. He closed the gap to Dani Sordo (Citroen) to just 1.1sec before the final super special stages but the Spaniard held on to take fifth following Solberg's troubles.
The championship moves back to Europe for round seven with the second of three consecutive gravel events. The Mediterranean island of Sardinia hosts the Rally d'Italia Sardegna, which is based in Olbia on 18 - 21 May.