Ford Martini drivers Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya collected their seventh podium finish of the FIA World Rally Championship season by claiming third on the Tour of Corsica rally which ended in Ajaccio this afternoon. Their Ford Focus World Rally...
Ford Martini drivers Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya collected their seventh podium finish of the FIA World Rally Championship season by claiming third on the Tour of Corsica rally which ended in Ajaccio this afternoon. Their Ford Focus World Rally Car never missed a beat all rally and team-mates Piero Liatti and Carlo Cassina finished sixth to ensure two Focus cars in the points.
Sainz and Moya finished the demanding three-day asphalt rally, 11th round of the championship, with a flourish, posting fastest time on the last of the 18 scheduled speed tests over rain-soaked mountain roads. Madrid-based Sainz settled into third during the opening day and was never seriously challenged, ending 1min 12.6sec behind winner Gilles Panizzi after 374km of competition.
The result ensured Ford Martini maintained their lead in the manufacturers' championship, although maximum points for Peugeot reduced the advantage to nine points. Sainz remains fourth in the drivers' standings but just five points cover the top four drivers, which also include Ford's Colin McRae.
"The final stage was very difficult because it was raining heavily," said 38-year-old Sainz. "Before it started the team told me the roads were dry but I told them I'd never seen dry roads running with water before. I think they told me it was dry to make me happy! We had to push hard though so as not to give Richard Burns any chance of catching us.
"It's even closer now in the drivers' series and our result keeps Ford in a clear lead in the manufacturers' championship. I'm the last of the four drivers chasing the title. People keep telling me I drive better when challenging from behind but believe me, I'd rather be in front!" he added.
Liatti collected the final drivers' point on his debut drive in a Focus World Rally Car. "We had a few difficulties with the clutch on the final stage but we overcame that and I'm really delighted," he said. "I have a very good set-up with the car and that makes me confident for my home rally in Italy later this month. We've also learned much about the team's new semi-automatic gearchange system, the sort of information you can only learn in competition."
Colin McRae left hospital in Bastia this afternoon following his accident yesterday which left him with a double fracture of his left cheekbone and a bruised lung. Doctors were unwilling to let him travel without medical assistance and the Ford team arranged an air ambulance to fly him to Britain.
He was expected to see a surgeon on arrival in Edinburgh this evening to discuss when he should have a minor operation to re-set the facial fractures. It is not expected this will happen until later this week when swelling has reduced.
"Accidents will always happen in rallying but it could have been an awful lot worse," said 32-year-old McRae. "I just want to thank the medical staff at the hospital, the emergency services and the Ford team representatives who attended the accident. It'll take me a few days before I get back to normal and I'm simply setting my sights on getting back on track for the Sanremo Rally later this month. My injuries are painful at the moment when I move around so I'm not doing much of that."
Ford Martini team director Malcolm Wilson reflected on a happy end to a difficult rally. "After the worry and the setback of Colin's accident, to have two cars finishing in the points is a significant achievement. It's been a difficult couple of days for all of us in the team but everyone's delighted that this morning Colin was already asking questions about the Sanremo Rally. Obviously we'll be guided my medical advice on whether he will be fit to compete and it's too early to say at present," he said.
Ford Racing's European director, Martin Whitaker, said he had been 'very impressed by the responsible way in which the team handled a frightening incident', paying special tribute to those team members who helped McRae at the scene.
News from our Rivals Gilles Panizzi and Francois Delecour (both Peugeot) were never challenged today and with first and second assured the team agreed the drivers should finish in the positions they held after today's opening two stages. At that time Panizzi led and he went on to claim his maiden championship victory. There was little change behind with the exception of the retirement of Tommi Mäkinen (Mitsubishi), who rolled.
<pre> The FIA World Rally Championship remains on asphalt for round 12 later this month. Italy's Sanremo Rally is based in the town of the same name from 20 - 22 October.
Final positions 1. G Panizzi/H Panizzi F Peugeot 206 4hr 02min 14.2sec 2. F Delecour/D Grataloup F Peugeot 206 4hr 02min 47.7sec 3. C Sainz/L Moya E Ford Focus 4hr 03min 26.8sec 4. R Burns/R Reid GB Subaru Impreza 4hr 03min 45.1sec 5. M Gronholm/T Rautiainen FIN Peugeot 206 4hr 04min 11.3sec 6. P Liatti/C Cassina I Ford Focus 4hr 05min 08.0sec 7. S Jean-Joseph/J Boyere F Subaru Impreza 4hr 05min 23.7sec 8. D Auriol/D Giraudet F Seat Cordoba 4hr 05min 44.9sec 9. S Loeb/D Elena F Toyota Corolla 4hr 09min 07.4sec 10 F Morel/D Marty F Peugeot 206 4hr 09min 34.6sec
2000 FIA World Rally Championship (after round 11 of 14) Drivers Manufacturers 1. M Grönholm 46pts 1. Ford 83pts 2. R Burns 44pts 2. Peugeot 74pts 3. C McRae 42pts 3. Subaru 69pts 4. C Sainz 41pts 4. Mitsubishi 35pts 5. T Mäkinen 28pts 5. Skoda 8pts 6. J Kankkunen 18pts Seat 8pts