RÃ¥dstrom and Ford Focus finish third in Sweden The new Ford Focus World Rally Car scored its first podium finish on only its second rally when Thomas RÃ¥dstrom and co-driver Fred Gallagher finished a superb third on the Swedish Rally which...
Rådstrom and Ford Focus finish third in Sweden
The new Ford Focus World Rally Car scored its first podium finish on only its second rally when Thomas Rådstrom and co-driver Fred Gallagher finished a superb third on the Swedish Rally which ended in Karlstad this afternoon.
It was a remarkable performance by both Rådstrom, making his debut for the Ford Martini World Rally Team, and the Focus so soon after its first appearance last month. The 33-year-old Swedish driver set one fastest and eight second quickest times during the rally's 19 speed tests and was never once outside the top four times.
He displayed great calm under enormous pressure during a thrilling showdown on the final special stage of the three-day rally with Frenchman Didier Auriol. The pair were separated by only 4.3 seconds starting the 22km test but second fastest time behind Auriol was sufficient for Rådstrom to claim third by just 2.5 seconds after 382km of flat-out driving on ice and snow.
The Ford Martini team gave Rådstrom every assistance to hold off former world champion Auriol by removing the jack, spare wheel, tool kit and even the drinks bottles from the Ford Focus before the final test in a bid to make the car as light as possible.
"I was quite nervous before the start of the final stage but I decided I had to drive harder than I had on any other stage because I knew Didier would," said Rådstrom. "The car was right on the limit throughout the stage and has been a pleasure to drive all rally. Our Michelin tyres have been ideal for the conditions and I just feel fantastic.
"Fred and I have settled in well together on our first event and I can't wait for the next rally. The Focus is a really good car but give us a few more months to continue the development and it will be a superb car.""
Delighted team director Malcolm Wilson was full of praise for Rådstrom's performance. "It's hard to believe that this was his first rally in a Ford Focus. He's driven superbly and looking at the commitment on his face when he left the service park for the final stage I just knew there was no way he was going to allow Didier to beat him.
"After the impressive performance from the Ford Focus in Monte Carlo it was important for many reasons that we came to Sweden and showed similar speed and reliability over very different stages. We've done that and to finish on the podium is a fitting reward for everyone in the team who was worked so hard during the last few weeks," he added.
Norway's Petter Solberg and Philip Mills, driving an Escort World Rally Car on their debut for Ford, finished 11th, gaining vital experience of the unique Swedish stages. "We came here to finish the rally and that's exactly what we've achieved," said 24-year-old Solberg. "Phil's experience in the co-driver's seat has helped me enormously and we're already looking forward to the Finnskog Rally next weekend, which is my home event and a round of the European Championship."
News from our Rivals
Tommi Makinen (Mitsubishi) cruised through the final day to record his second consecutive win and the sixth straight success for his team, a record which began in Finland last year. Carlos Sainz (Toyota) was similarly untroubled on his way to second with Subaru duo Richard Burns and Juha Kankkunen collecting the final points. Harri Rovanpera (Seat) battled back from his first leg fuel pressure problems to finish 16th.
Drivers have no opportunity to rest before the next round. They fly to Kenya tomorrow to begin preparations for the Safari Rally, the longest and toughest event in the 14-round championship. Rough and pot-holed loose-surface roads, very long competitive sections and vast, dusty African plains are the hallmark of this famous event. The Nairobi-based rally begins on February 25 and ends there on February 28.
Final positions 1. T Makinen/R Mannisenmaki FIN Mitsubishi Lancer 3hr 29min 15.6sec 2. C Sainz/L Moya E Toyota Corolla 3hr 29min 33.7sec 3. T Rådstrom/F Gallagher S Ford Focus 3hr 29min 53.4sec 4. D Auriol/D Giraudet F Toyota Corolla 3hr 29min 55.9sec 5. R Burns/R Reid GB Subaru Impreza 3hr 35min 04.9sec 6. J Kankkunen/J Repo FIN Subaru Impreza 3hr 35min 10.0sec 7. P Hagstrom/T Gardemeister FIN Toyota Corolla 3hr 37min 39.6sec 8. M Martin/T Kitsing EE Ford Escort 3hr 38min 57.6sec 9. F Loix/S Smeets B Mitsubishi Carisma 3hr 39min 21.8sec 10 B Thiry/S Prevot B Subaru Impreza 3hr 39min 48.9sec
1999 FIA World Rally Championship (after round 2 of 14) Drivers Manufacturers 1. T Makinen 20pts 1. Mitsubishi 20pts 2. J Kankkunen 7pts 2. Toyota 13pt 8. D Auriol 7pts 3. Subaru 10pts 4. C Sainz 6pts 4. Seat 5pts 5. T Rådstrom 4pts 5. Ford 4pts 6. F Delecour 3pts