The Ford Martini World Rally Team has decided not to appeal against the exclusion of Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya following the end of today's opening leg of the Rally Australia. A late night meeting of the rally's stewards disqualified Sainz and Moya after deciding their Ford Focus World Rally Car stopped in a prohibited area between the yellow warning sign and the stop sign at the end of the day's penultimate special stage, the 4.42km Atkins.
Sainz, employing tactics very similar to other title contenders, was deliberately trying to lose time so as to run further down the order on tomorrow's second leg and benefit from roads swept clear of loose gravel by earlier competitors.
"As I made clear before the start of the rally, the organisers' decision to abandon last year's practice of allowing the leading drivers to choose their starting position for the following day was always likely to introduce an element of farce," said Sainz. "Unfortunately this proved to be the case and in our own attempts to try to avoid being disadvantaged by this change in procedure, Luis and I made an error of judgement which has resulted in our exclusion.
"I want to stress that what happened was entirely on the initiative of myself and Luis and nothing to do with team instructions or anything of that sort. In fact, as in-car video footage shows, I was having animated discussions with Luis during the stage in an attempt to figure out how best to cope with the situation. I know other drivers used different tactics and in retrospect I should have done something different myself.
"When we carry out the practice, there are no markings to indicate where the yellow boards will be sited and on this occasion I missed it. This is a terrible disappointment for the whole team and you can imagine how I feel because I had a good opportunity of winning the drivers' championship as well as contributing to the team winning the manufacturers' title.
"Of course, I feel a bit embarrassed as well as disappointed. It's a hard lesson but I can assure you that I'll be more determined than ever to help Ford to success on the final round of the championship in Britain," added Sainz.
Ford Martini team director Malcolm Wilson said: "Obviously we're very disappointed and as you can imagine we've had a full and open discussion with Carlos and Luis about what happened. That said, I think we should bear in mind how much pressure drivers and co-drivers are under at this stage in the world championship when positions are so close. Carlos is an experienced professional driver and I have no doubts he will come back as strong and as determined as ever to help the team to success in the future.