Martin delights home fans as Ford Focus wins in Estonia Ford BP Rallye Sport drivers Markko Martin and Michael Park led from start to finish to win Estonia's E.O.S. Rally yesterday in their Focus RS World Rally Car. The 27-year-old Estonian...
Martin delights home fans as Ford Focus wins in Estonia
Ford BP Rallye Sport drivers Markko Martin and Michael Park led from start to finish to win Estonia's E.O.S. Rally yesterday in their Focus RS World Rally Car. The 27-year-old Estonian driver delighted his fans by posting fastest time on each of the 12 speed tests in the south of the country, close to his home in the rally base of Tartu.
Martin's winning margin in the Castrol-branded Focus RS was 3min 11sec after 123.62km of competition. The victory provided the perfect start to the team's preparations for next month's Rally Finland, ninth round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Estonia's fast and flowing gravel roads are similar to those in the classic Finnish event and the rally provided ideal competitive testing for the Ford BP team, ahead of a more traditional four-day test carried out by Martin and team-mate Francois Duval in Finland which begins tomorrow.
Martin was fastest over two short and damp asphalt special stages around the streets of Tartu on Friday evening - the first time in which the 2003-specification Focus RS has been seen in competition on a sealed surface. Yesterday the rally moved onto smooth gravel roads near the small town of Otepaa and the Ford duo won all the remaining 10 special stages, setting a new record average speed of more than 132kph on the penultimate test.
Huge crowds lined the stages in warm summer sunshine to see Martin, who only last month scored his first world rally win in Greece. "It was great to give the Estonian people the opportunity to see the Focus and our world championship team in action," he said. "There were plenty of Estonian flags flying alongside the stages and the support was fantastic. I didn't expect to win by more than three minutes because the opposition was strong. That was a nice surprise but we didn't hold back and drove hard from the start.
"It has been excellent preparation for the Rally Finland. The last two world rallies in Greece and Cyprus have been on slow and twisty roads so it was good to drive the car again on faster stages like those we'll find in Finland," added Martin.
The team used the rally to test improvements to the hydraulic system on the Focus RS after difficulties on recent rallies, as well as trying different suspension settings and weight distribution to perfect the car's handling over the huge roller-coaster jumps that are such a feature of the Rally Finland.
It was Martin's third successive victory on the Estonian rally, and all the more sweet as E.O.S. was a fervent supporter of his rallying during the early days of his career and remains a personal backer now. Martin and Park donated their USD10,000 prize money to the Tartu Anne Youth Centre to help buy a road safety simulator to educate children about behaviour on the roads.
Ford claimed a clean sweep of the podium as privately-entered Focus RS WRCs also claimed second and third places on an event which boasted an incredibly strong entry, with 13 World Rally Cars taking the start. Poland's Tomasz Kuchar and Maciej Szczepaniak took second by just 3.2sec from Estonia's Margus Murakas and Toomas Kitsing after a close battle throughout the rally. <pre> Final positions 1. M Martin/M Park EE Ford Focus RS 1hr 00min 34.6sec 2. T Kuchar/M Szczepaniak POL Ford Focus RS 1hr 03min 45.6sec 3. M Murakas/T Kitsing EE Ford Focus RS 1hr 03min 48.8sec 4. J Ampuja/M Ovaskainen FIN Toyota Corolla 1hr 04min 22.5sec 5. K Kuistila/M Jokinen FIN Ford Focus RS 1hr 04min 42.1sec