Estonian Markko Martin scored his first win in the FIA World Rally Championship in Greece today. The Ford Focus RS WRC 03 driver was untroubled through the final leg of the Acropolis Rally, which took crews south of the event^Ã’s Lamia base for...
Estonian Markko Martin scored his first win in the FIA World Rally Championship in Greece today. The Ford Focus RS WRC 03 driver was untroubled through the final leg of the Acropolis Rally, which took crews south of the event^Òs Lamia base for two loops of three stages. Martin and co-driver Michael Park (Britain) had led the rally from the second stage on Friday. This was also Ford^Òs first win with the new car which was introduced to the championship in April.
Citroen^Òs Carlos Sainz took second place after a fight to the finish with Petter Solberg. Solberg moved ahead of Sainz with two stages to go, only to get stuck behind an ailing Colin McRae on the penultimate test. The Subaru driver entered the final stage 9.4 seconds adrift of Sainz. Solberg set his fourth fastest time from the six stages run today, but he missed out on second by 6.7 seconds. Fourth place was enough for Richard Burns to extend his lead in the driver^Òs championship, while Ford^Òs success trims Peugeot^Òs lead in the manufacturer^Òs standings to 11 points.
Frenchman Brice Tirabassi won the FIA Junior World Rally Championship round to extend his lead at the top of that table.
Technical: Francois Duval slid off the road on the fifth stage of the event, while Mikko Hirvonen went out when he lost a wheel on leg two. Markko Martin^Òs car broke a rear anti-roll bar on the opening loop of stages this morning.
Sporting: Martin controlled the rally from the front through the final leg, arriving back in Lamia with a 46-second gap over second-placed Sainz. The anti-roll bar problem ^Ö on the second stage today ^Ö affected the car^Òs handling slightly, but otherwise it was a clean run for Martin.
Quotes: Markko Martin said: ^ÓThis is a big result for everybody in the team. The only time I thought maybe we weren^Òt going to win this event, was when the bonnet flew up on the first day. Then I thought: ^ÓOh no. Here we go again, the longest stage of the rally and another strange problem for us.^Ô But we managed to minimise the time loss and here we are, winners at the finish.^Ô
Michael Park said: ^ÓI^Òve dreamt of this day for a lot of years and there are a lot of people who I^Òll be thanking at home in Britain for getting me to this stage. Markko has driven a great rally, showing he can even do it when he can^Òt really see where he^Òs going!^Ô
Malcolm Wilson said: ^ÓThis result means so much to everybody. It^Òs a fantastic thing to be able to give Markko his first win, but at the same time it^Òs so important for Ford and our new sponsors BP. It^Òs amazing, and to think this is only the car^Òs third rally ^Ö and we have shown winning pace on the two before it. Brilliant.^Ô
Technical: Sebastien Loeb^Òs Citroen Xsara WRC retired with engine problems on the first stage of the event. McRae^Òs brake problems continued into the final leg and were compounded by an electrical glitch which affected the throttle on the penultimate stage. Sainz^Òs car ran without mechanical problems.
Sporting: Sainz felt he took a Michelin tyre that was too hard for the conditions this morning, but came out on top of his major fight with Solberg through the final stage.
Quotes: Carlos Sainz said: ^ÓI am happy with this result. I don^Òt think we could have done much better. The rally has generally gone well, we had to make a few adjustments to the car to start with, but then it was good. It^Òs good to keep hold of second place today.^Ô
Colin McRae said: ^ÓThings were going to plan until that last-but-one stage, when the throttle problem hit us. We were about two kilometres from the end of the stage when it went wrong. Derek (Ringer, co-driver) had to get out and jam the throttle open. We got through the stage then. On the road section we switched the engine off and suddenly it worked fine. This is a lot of hard work for one point.^Ô
Technical: Both Petter Solberg and Tommi Makinen^Òs Subaru Impreza WRC 2003s ran without mechanical problems through the final leg.
Sporting: Solberg had closed the gap to Sainz to 0.9s after the first loop of three stages this morning. Fastest on the first two, Solberg dropped half a second to the Spaniard on the third. On the repeat loop through the afternoon, he moved past Sainz on the first stage of the loop, but then got caught behind Colin McRae on the penultimate test. Sainz re-passed him and, despite setting fastest time, Solberg couldn^Òt get second place back. Makinen was embroiled in a battle for fifth place with Burns. He stalled twice on the first two stages and then felt he^Òd run on a tyre too soft for the afternoon stages. Burns passed him and Makinen ended the event fifth.
Quotes: Petter Solberg said: ^ÓWe pushed hard on the first two stages this morning and got the time right down, but then in the third one we thought we might not be so quick. There was a lot of uphill stuff which didn^Òt suit the car so well. I was happy to get past Carlos, but then we found Colin with no throttle on the last stage. It was terrible, he didn^Òt move over so in the end I had to hit him in the back. Third is not a bad result, but second would have been better for us.^Ó
Tommi Makinen said: ^ÓThe team had made some more changes to the car overnight and today it felt quite okay. I took my decision with the tyres for the stages this afternoon, but I made a miscalculation about the heat. The tyres were too soft, it was completely my own mistake.^Ô
Technical: Harri Rovanpera^Òs car ran reliably through the final leg, while
Richard Burns^Ò 206 WRC was still hampered by the gearbox problems which struck on SS13. The Peugeot team is unable to change the gearbox, having installed the one permitted spare gearbox on the opening leg. Marcus Gronholm retired at the end of leg one with a broken fuel pump.
Sporting: Rovanpera ended the event in sixth position following an undramatic final leg. Burns pushed as hard as he dared with his broken gearbox, and managed to get past Makinen and into fourth place on the final stage of the rally.
Quotes: Richard Burns said: ^ÓI haven^Òt been thinking about catching Tommi today. My first priority was to get the car to the finish, with this gearbox problem, but having done that it was a great result for us. I have to say I am a little surprised that the gearbox has taken this punishment; okay we noticed a few noises coming from some of the other gears, but they have kept on working. I said I wanted to keep my lead here and that^Òs what I^Òve done. I am happy.^Ô
Harri Rovanpera said: ^ÓWe haven^Òt done anything today. No testing on the car, no changes to the car, just driving the stages. For me this rally was a little bit lost, with the gearbox problem on the second day.^Ô
Corrado Provera said: ^ÓI am very happy for Richard, he drove a very good event, but I do feel for Harri Rovaqnpera ^Ö he doesn^Òt seem to be able to do anything to get a result. Marcus as well would have been very close without his problem. But after that, I have to say a big and genuine well done to Ford. We know what it is like trying to win with a new car and they have done it. Congratulations to them^Ô.
Technical: Toni Gardemeister^Òs Octavia retired on the second leg with no oil pressure.
Sporting: Auriol was hit with a 20-second penalty following a late departure from first service this morning. The Skoda team took longer than expected changing the fuel pump on the Frenchman^Òs Octavia. Auriol maintained his ninth place through the final day.
Quotes: Didier Auriol said: ^ÓEverything has been okay today. Some of the stages were suiting the car quite well. The roads weren^Òt too rough today, which was good. This has been quite a hard rally ^Ö the Acropolis always is ^Ö so it^Òs good for me and for the team to come out here with some points. Now we^Òre going to test the new Fabia WRC in Italy next week. I^Òm looking forward to this, I haven^Òt done so much with the car on asphalt, so it will be an interesting test.
Technical: Armin Schwarz and Freddy Loix went out of the rally on day one with mechanical problems, while Jussi Valimaki retired prior to leg two with clutch trouble. Manfred Stohl was driving a semi-works Accent WRC3 and had a trouble-free run through the final leg.
Sporting: Austrian driver Stohl held a top ten place early in the leg, but then slipped back to 11th. This was his first ever outing in a Hyundai, but it was his 73rd round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Quotes: Manfred Stohl said: ^ÔI^Òm pleased to have finished this event and gained a lot of experience of the car and the team,. That was what I came here for, it was very important for me to learn about everything. I never thought I would be able to manage a result like this. I am so happy for everybody in the Hyundai team, myself and my sponsors.^Ô
Brice Tirabassi took his second win in this year^Òs FIA Junior World Rally Championship, with a comfortable victory in Greece today. The Renault Clio driver has led from the start of the event, and has never looked seriously threatened by anybody over the past three days. The final leg proved to be as trouble-free as the rest of the Frenchman^Òs event. He said: ^ÓThis morning a couple of the stages were slippery. We have been the first two-wheel-drive car into the stage, and we take a different line to the cars ahead of us, which means that our line isn^Òt always being swept clean. Apart from that it^Òs been a good day, I am very happy with the result, both on this rally and in the championship.^Ô
Daniel Carlsson (Suzuki Ignis) took second place, with almost five minutes in hand over his team-mate Urmo Aava.Tirabassi^Òs fellow Oreca team Renault driver Simon Jean-Joseph, won the A6 class overall, the Martinique driver being too old for eligibility for the FIA Junior World Rally Championship.Of the non-works World Rally Car drivers, Gilles Panizzi was the top finisher, bringing his Bozian-run, factory-specification Peugeot 206WRC home in eighth place, following a final leg without any problems. Behind him, 18-year-old Jari-Matti Latvala managed an astonishing top ten finish on only his second ever outing in the FIA World Rally Championship. The Finn drove sensibly throughout the event, to guide his M-Sport-run Ford Focus RS WRC 02 to the finish.