8 November 1998
Kankkunen fights to Ford's 11th points-scoring finish
After some of the most dramatic changes of fortune ever seen in world rallying, the penultimate round of the 1998 championship ended today (Sunday) in Perth (Australia) with the first five finishers separated by less than one minute. On this third and final day of the API Rally Australia the Ford World Rally Team claimed championship points for the 11th time this year as Juha Kankkunen brought his Escort World Rally Car home in a fighting fifth place after five tough special stages over 109 very hot and dusty kilometres.
Early today Tommi Makinen's one minute penalty for a jumped start at last night's super-special was cancelled, so Juha Kankkunen started the day running fourth on the road, hoping that the cars ahead would sweep away the small stones that cover the stages South East of Perth and enable the Valvoline-backed Escort to get better traction and set faster times. "Today the loose stones on the stages were slow to clear," explained Juha. "On my previous Australian rallies, running third or fourth on the road was the ideal position, but strangely this year there seemed to be no advantage until the sixth car through - and so it was Colin McRae who was able to fully exploit the better grip he found today."
"This is a really hard event on which to do well," commented Ford team mate Bruno Thiry. "This year's rally seemed much faster to me than the 1997 event and I've certainly learnt a lot about driving on the unique surfaces here. I couldn't select 4th gear during the third stage but the Escort stood up well to the incredible pounding it has received over three days." Kankkunen set an excellent third fastest time of the difficult 25 kilometre Stage 22, but like many rival cars, his Escort also suffered a few seconds of misfiring after charging through some of the water splashes on the famous Bunnings Tree Farm forest stages.
"Today's stages provided some of the closest ever battles in the history of world rallying," commented Malcolm Wilson, Ford World Rally Team Director. "It was good to see the Escort at the heart of the action once again and winning world championship points. As soon as we get back to the UK, the team will be working flat out to ensure that the results achieved on the Escort's final world rally - the Network Q Rally of Great Britain - are a fitting tribute to 30 years of action by this famous Ford model."
For the British event, Sebastian Lindholm (who finished a highly creditable ninth on his Australian debut), will rally a full 1998-specification Escort built by M-Sport and entered by Gazprom Motorsport - further strengthening Ford's presence on this Escort finale.
API RALLY AUSTRALIA
Final positions [ after 3 Legs and 24 stages ]
1. T Makinen/R Mannisenmaki FIN Mitsubishi Lancer 3hr 52min 48.7sec
2. C Sainz/L Moya E Toyota Corolla 3hr 53min 05.2sec
3. D Auriol/D Giraudet F Toyota Corolla 3hr 53min 13.7sec
4. C McRae/N Grist GB Subaru Impreza 3hr 53min 20.3sec
5. J Kankkunen/J Repo FIN Ford Escort 3hr 53min 44.8sec
6. F Loix/S Smeets B Toyota Corolla 3hr 56min 42.9sec
7. B Thiry/S Prevot B Ford Escort 3hr 57min 03.6sec
8. P Bourne/C Vincent NZ Subaru Impreza 3hr 59min 30.2sec
9. S Lindholm/J Aho FIN Ford Escort 4hr 02min 50.1sec
10. E Ordynski/M Stacey AUS Mitsubishi Lancer 4hr 04min 15.3sec
1998 FIA World Rally Championship (after round 12 of 13)
1. T Makinen 58 pts 1. Toyota 85 pts 2. C Sainz 56 pts 2. Mitsubishi 81 pts 3. C McRae 45 pts 3. Subaru 65 pts 4. D Auriol 34 pts 4. Ford 43 pts 5. J Kankkunen 33 pts 6. R Burns 23 pts 7. P Liatti 17 pts 8. F Loix 13 pts 9. A Vatanen 6 pts 10. F Delecour 6 pts ---- 12. B Thiry 4 pts