Ford Martini drivers Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya emphasised their status as the most consistent pairing in the FIA World Rally Championship by claiming their fourth points scoring finish in as many events on Spain's Catalunya Rally which ended today.
Ford Martini drivers Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya emphasised their status as the most consistent pairing in the FIA World Rally Championship by claiming their fourth points scoring finish in as many events on Spain's Catalunya Rally which ended today. The Spanish duo finished sixth in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car to strengthen their grip on second place in the drivers' series after four of the 14 rounds.
Thirty-eight-year-old Sainz and co-driver Moya are the only pairing to have scored in each round of this year's championship and their one point keeps Ford in second in the manufacturers' standings. Ford Martini team-mates François Delecour and Daniel Grataloup finished seventh in their Focus RS and, along with Sainz and Moya, are the only drivers to have finished all four rounds this season.
The temperatures in the mountains north of Barcelona were hotter than ever for today's third leg, covering 118km, and the thousands of spectators who lined the asphalt speed tests to see their heroes were treated to a thrilling final day. Indeed, it is estimated around 20,000 watched the final special stage close to the town of Vic.
Sainz, Delecour and Freddy Loix were involved in a superb fight for fifth and positions changed with each stage this morning as a handful of seconds covered the trio. Loix grabbed the initiative on the first, Sainz regained the advantage on the next and Loix moved ahead again by the midpoint of the leg when just 5.4sec split the three.
During the afternoon Madrid-based Sainz was unable to hold Loix and settled for sixth. "It's not been an easy weekend but I was pushing hard this morning and a point was more than we thought we'd achieve after our first day difficulties," he said. "Before the rally I said a finish in the points would be a good result and I was proved right.
"We've learned much on our first asphalt rally with Pirelli and we know we have plenty of work to do. We lost a little ground to Tommi in the championship so it's important we win a rally because then we gain on everyone. It's difficult here in Spain because everyone expects so much. I'm looking forward to a gravel rally now," he added.
Delecour's hopes of a points-scoring finish ended when he was penalised 10 seconds for a jump start on the third stage today. "The car is a little difficult to get moving and I simply let the clutch up too early and broke the timing beam," he explained. "It was disappointing to end like that after such a good fight. It's been a difficult rally. Our car didn't feel bad but we couldn't match the others here and I think we need to work closely with Pirelli to make improvements for the next asphalt rally later in the season."
Ford Martini team director Malcolm Wilson said: "Everyone felt so confident before the rally but unfortunately we weren't strong enough to reach the podium. Having said that, both Carlos and François maintained their 100 percent finishing record and we have from now until the Sanremo Rally in October to find a way of getting back onto the podium on asphalt."
News from our Rivals
The main drama centred on overnight leader Philippe Bugalski (Citroën). His car lost hydraulic clutch pressure on the second test and although he arrived at the following stage on time, he started late and received a two minute penalty. He incurred a further 10 second penalty in service as the team made repairs and dropped to fourth. His problems allowed Didier Auriol (Peugeot) to claim his first championship victory since the 1999 China Rally, the Frenchman followed home by fellow countryman and team-mate Gilles Panizzi to give their team maximum manufacturers' points. Tommi Mäkinen (Mitsubishi) extended his championship lead with third place and with team-mate Freddy Loix taking fifth, their team stretched their lead in the manufacturers' series. The day's major retirements were Piero Liatti (Hyundai) who stopped with brake problems after the opening stage and Markko Martin (Subaru) whose troubled event ended when a gearbox change in service after three stages put him out of time.
The next round of the championship is the first outside Europe this season. The Rally Argentina is based in Cordoba on 3 - 6 May and marks the only visit to the Americas during the year.
FIA Super 1600 Cup
Martin Stenshorne (N) finished fourth in the opening round of the inaugural Junior World Championship. His Ford Puma, lying fifth overnight, moved up a place after a careful run through the final leg. The next round of the Super 1600 Cup is the Acropolis Rally in Greece on 15 - 17 June.
<pre> Final positions 1. D Auriol/D Giraudet F Peugeot 206 3hr 40min 54.7sec 2. G Panizzi/H Panizzi F Peugeot 206 3hr 41min 17.9sec 3. T Mäkinen/R Mannisenmaki FIN Mitsubishi Lancer 3hr 41min 56.1sec 4. F Loix/S Smeets B Mitsubishi Carisma 3hr 43min 11.4sec 5. C Sainz/L Moya E Ford Focus RS 3hr 43min 30.4sec 6. F Delecour/D Grataloup F Ford Focus RS 3hr 43min 38.4sec 7. R Burns/R Reid GB Subaru Impreza 3hr 43min 57.5sec 8. P Bugalski/J-P Chiaroni F Citroën Xsara 3hr 42min 20.4sec 9. S Jean-Joseph/J Boyere F Peugeot 206 3hr 45min 54.0sec 10 B Thiry/S Prévot B Skoda Octavia 3hr 46min 58.6sec
FIA World Rally Championship (after round 4 of 14) Drivers 1. T Mäkinen 24pts 2. C Sainz 17pts 3= H Rovanperä 10pts 3= D Auriol 10pts 5. F Delecour 8pts 6= T Rädström 6pts 6= G Panizzi 6pts
Manufacturers 1. Mitsubishi 39pts 2. Ford 21pts 3. Peugeot 20pts 4. Hyundai 8pts 5. Subaru 7pts 6. Skoda 6pts 7. Citroën 3pts
Catalunya Rally Ford Racing final
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