WRC

Tour de Corse: Ford Rally final report

Sainz and Martin preserve Ford's scoring record Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya and team-mates Markko Martin and Michael Park maintained Ford Rallye Sport's unblemished scoring record on this year's FIA World Rally Championship during the Tour de...

Sainz and Martin preserve Ford's scoring record

Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya and team-mates Markko Martin and Michael Park maintained Ford Rallye Sport's unblemished scoring record on this year's FIA World Rally Championship during the Tour de Corse which finished in Ajaccio today. Both Ford Focus RS World Rally Cars finished in the points over Corsica's daunting asphalt mountain roads on this third round of the 14-rally series.

Sainz was sixth, to also secure a drivers' point, while Martin finished eighth to enable Ford to maintain second in the teams' standings. Team-mates Colin McRae and Nicky Grist retired after a heavy accident on the penultimate stage, McRae suffering a broken finger on his left hand in the impact, while Francois Duval and Jean-Marc Fortin rolled their Focus on the previous stage after a tyre punctured.

The rain and fog of yesterday's second leg gave way to clear skies and bright sunshine for the final four speed tests, covering 112km, north of Ajaccio. Sainz and McRae began the day in the midst of a four-car battle for fourth. The Scot seized the advantage by posting fastest time on the opening stage and returned to service midway through the leg in fourth with Sainz closing in on fifth.

However, just 5km into the next stage McRae crashed into a tree after sliding on a patch of mud in a third gear left-right combination of bends. He was airlifted to hospital in Ajaccio where doctors diagnosed bruised ribs, a bruised left leg and a badly broken and gashed little finger on his left hand. He underwent minor surgery and doctors stitched up torn tendons and closed the open wound.

"I can't remember a lot about the accident," said McRae. "It was muddy under the trees and once the car started to slide, I knew it wasn't coming back onto the road. It hit a tree just in front of my door and the impact pushed in the roof and the side of the car next to the dashboard. My finger was stuck between the dash and the steering wheel. I managed to free my hand but the side of the car was pushed against my leg and it took me a while to get out because I wasn't sure if my leg was broken.

"We have to accept these kind of accidents on asphalt. When stages are used twice the risk goes up because other cars have already dragged mud from the side of the road on to the stage. We have to use every centimetre of the road on this surface and when something goes wrong, there's no room for error.

"We were running better today than we expected. The car / tyre package was working well and I think we've made big progress for the Catalunya Rally," added McRae, who expects to be fully fit for the Spanish round of the championship.

Sainz fought hard through the final two stages but was unable to close on Philippe Bugalski (Citroen) or hold off Petter Solberg (Subaru) in the drying conditions. Nevertheless sixth meant the 39-year-old Spaniard is one of only two drivers to score points on all three rounds to date.

"We tried hard on the last two stages but on the final test I couldn't get the tyres to warm up and couldn't attack as hard as I'd have liked," said Sainz. "Under the circumstances this wasn't a bad result. To score points on a rally is good and I'm already thinking about the next round in Spain and then the gravel events that follow which should suit us better."

Martin was suffering from a heavy cold and felt distinctly unwell, his illness meaning he found it hard to hear co-driver Park's pace-notes. However, he persevered and his first points for Ford Rallye Sport were the result. "I'm very happy to score a point here because this was my first true asphalt rally in a Focus RS and I'm still learning the car and how it behaves on this surface. I need to learn more about how to drive on wet asphalt which is where I lost time yesterday afternoon. I felt happier when the roads were dry," he said.

Duval's excellent drive in a 2001 specification Focus RS ended 15km after the start of the 31.79km Pont de Calzola - Agosta Plage test. "We were approaching a fifth gear right-hand bend and I felt a vibration under braking. There was a loud bang, a tyre punctured and we rolled down about five metres into some small trees," explained the 21-year-old Belgian. Neither Duval nor Fortin were hurt but a potential top 10 finish had gone.

News from our Rivals
French manufacturer Peugeot completed a 1-2-3 with Gilles Panizzi, Marcus Grönholm and Richard Burns maintaining their overnight order, although Panizzi was troubled with handling problems during the opening two stages. His winning margin was 40.5sec. Private entrant Philippe Bugalski won the four-car battle for fourth with Petter Solberg (Subaru) and Sainz claiming the final drivers' points. Francois Delecour (Mitsubishi) and Martin took the final manufacturers' points. Apart from McRae and Duval, the only major retirement was Kenneth Eriksson (Skoda) who stopped with a front differential problem.

Next round
The championship remains on asphalt for round four when the series crosses the Mediterranean for Spain's Catalunya Rally, based in Lloret de Mar on 21 - 24 March. <pre> Final positions 1. G Panizzi/H Panizzi F Peugeot 206 3hr 54min 40.3sec 2. M Grönholm/T Rautiainen FIN Peugeot 206 3hr 55min 20.8sec 3. R Burns/R Reid GB Peugeot 206 3hr 55min 32.7sec 4. P Bugalski/J-P Chiaroni F Citroen Xsara 3hr 55min 42.5sec 5. P Solberg/P Mills N Subaru Impreza 3hr 57min 08.5sec 6. C Sainz/L Moya E Ford Focus RS 3hr 57min 13.1sec 7. F Delecour/D Grataloup F Mitsubishi Lancer 3hr 59min 48.1sec 8. M Martin/M Park EE Ford Focus RS 4hr 00min 00.3sec 9. F Loix/S Smeets B Hyundai Accent 4hr 00min 54.1sec 10 A McRae/D Senior GB Mitsubishi Lancer 4hr 01min 12.8sec

FIA World Rally Championship (after round 3 of 14) Drivers 1. M Grönholm 18pts 2= T Mäkinen 10pts 2= G Panizzi 10pts 4. C Sainz 9pts 5. R Burns 7pts 6= S Loeb and H Rovanperä 6pts

Manufacturers 1. Peugeot 36pts 2. Ford 20pts 3. Subaru 16pts 4. Mitsubishi 5pts 5. Hyundai 1pt

-frs-

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Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team