Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya finished fourth on the Rally of Great Britain today to secure second place for their Ford Martini team in the FIA World Rally Championship. The result also sealed third for the Spanish duo in the drivers' championship, won today for the first time by Finland's Marcus Gronholm.
Sainz completed the final leg of the gruelling four-day rally, 14th and final round of the series, without difficulty in his Ford Focus World Rally Car. Lying third overnight, the 38-year-old Madrid-based driver was engaged in a fierce battle with outgoing world champion Tommi Makinen for the final podium place. They started the final 28.13km Margam test split by just 1.2sec but it was Makinen who came out on top.
Torrential overnight rain and gale force winds only added to the water and mud lying in wait on the already rain-soaked gravel tracks in the Welsh forests. Treacherously slippery conditions have been the hallmark of this 1509km event and virtually every top driver endured at least one off-road excursion.
Sainz's consistency and the reliability of his Focus during the championship season have earned the impressive record of completing more than 90 per cent of the year's total competitive distance, more than any other driver. He has finished 11 of the 14 rounds.
"This has been a very difficult rally for everyone because of the slippery conditions," said Sainz. "All the way through there has been a fine balance between driving quickly enough to set good times and driving too quickly and sliding off the road. Many have gone beyond that fine line."
Ford Martini team director Malcolm Wilson said: "After we lost any chance of winning the titles in Australia, it was important we fought hard here to take second in the manufacturers' series. Both Carlos and Colin McRae did just that. We have a good platform on which to build in 2001 and we are excited about some of the improvements to the Focus which are planned."
Although the championship is over, there is little respite for Sainz and Ford Martini team-mates Colin McRae and Nicky Grist. They begin testing for the 2001 campaign in two day's time!
Tapio Laukkanen's rally ended on the penultimate Trawscoed stage when the Finn and co-driver Kaj Lindstrom slipped off the road into retirement just 1km after the start of the 26.26km test. Their Focus slid off on the outside of a left-hand bend, wedging itself in a ditch and with no spectators about in that remote part of the forest they could not regain the road.
British television presenter Penny Mallory and Sue Mee won the ladies' category in their Focus World Rally Car, despite sliding off the road in Trawscoed. They finished 34th overall.
"I've waited for this moment for many years," said 34-year-old Mallory. "I've tried to win the ladies category four times before and not managed it. It's such a relief to achieve it at last and I feel quite emotional."
News from our Rivals
Richard Burns (Subaru) extended his overnight lead to win the rally for the third consecutive year but second place for Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) was sufficient for him to secure the drivers' world title. His team clinched the manufacturers' title on the previous round in Australia. Behind Sainz, Juha Kankkunen (Subaru) and Francois Delecour (Peugeot) took the final drivers' points, the two swapping places on the final stage. Didier Auriol and Harri Rovanpera each finished in the top 10 on the team's final world championship rally. The only major retirement today was Petter Solberg (Subaru) who hit a tree in the penultimate stage and his car refused to re-start after the subsequent engine fire.
<pre> Final positions 1. R Burns/R Reid GB Subaru Impreza 3hr 43min 01.9sec 2. M Gronholm/T Rautiainen FIN Peugeot 206 3hr 44min 07.5sec 3. T Mäkinen/R Mannisenmaki FIN Mitsubishi Lancer 3hr 44min 16.9sec 4. C Sainz/L Moya E Ford Focus 3hr 44min 35.4sec 5. J Kankkunen/J Repo FIN Subaru Impreza 3hr 44min 48.8sec 6. F Delecour/D Grataloup F Peugeot 206 3hr 44min 50.4sec 7. M Martin/M Park EE Toyota Corolla 3hr 46min 26.3sec 8. G Panizzi/H Panizzi F Peugeot 206 3hr 46min 37.5sec 9. D Auriol/D Giraudet F Seat Cordoba 3hr 47min 29.4sec 10 H Rovanperä/R Pietilainen FIN Seat Cordoba 3hr 48min 12.0sec
2000 FIA World Rally Championship (final standings) Drivers Manufacturers 1. M Grönholm 65pts 1. Peugeot 111pts 2. R Burns 60pts 2. Ford 91pts 3. C Sainz 46pts 3. Subaru 88pts 4. C McRae 43pts 4. Mitsubishi 43pts 5. T Mäkinen 36pts 5. Seat 11pts 6. F Delecour 24pts 6. Skoda 8pts 6. Hyundai 8pts