Catalunya Rally Ford Racing leg 2 report

Ford Martini pair battle back into points in Spain Ford Martini drivers Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya and team-mates François Delecour and Daniel Grataloup fought back during today's second leg of Spain's Catalunya Rally to climb into the ...

Ford Martini pair battle back into points in Spain

Ford Martini drivers Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya and team-mates François Delecour and Daniel Grataloup fought back during today's second leg of Spain's Catalunya Rally to climb into the all-important points-scoring positions. They shrugged off yesterday's time-consuming difficulties to move up to fifth and sixth respectively in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Cars after one of the longest days in the FIA World Rally Championship calendar.

Almost 900km of driving and 16 hours' behind the wheel lay in wait as they left the rally base at Lloret de Mar early this morning for the long journey to the Tarragona region, south of Barcelona. Six speed tests were scheduled but the final one, the longest of the rally, was scrubbed seconds before the start due to the sheer volume of spectators lining the 35km route.

Technicians worked through the night to investigate the fuel pressure problem which slowed Sainz and Delecour yesterday and was also responsible for the retirement of team-mates Colin McRae and Nicky Grist. They discovered that the pressure release valve in the cars' fuel pumps had been set to the wrong pressure.

"It's an internal part of the pump delivered to us as a sealed unit by the manufacturer," explained Ford Martini team director Malcolm Wilson. "We fitted pumps from an older batch to Carlos' and François' cars and had no problems with either today. We've made some performance gains and moved both cars up into the points and yesterday I thought there was little chance of that happening," he added.

The two Focus RS drivers swapped places three times during the day as the duo were never split by more than five seconds. Their pace took both past Freddy Loix and into the top six and, with Richard Burns also climbing back up the order, the foursome will start tomorrow's third and final leg of this fourth event of the 14-round series covered by only 22.3sec.

The asphalt on today's stages was more abrasive than that of yesterday and the liberal covering of gravel, dragged onto the roads by cars cutting corners, increased tyre wear. However, both Sainz and Delecour were encouraged by the improved grip offered by Pirelli's rubber on the dirty tests.

"We're still learning about Pirelli's tyres on dry asphalt but the grip and the day as a whole has been better with no real problems to speak of," said 38-year-old Sainz. "I'm not sure we can improve our position tomorrow but I think there will be a big battle for fifth and sixth with four of us chasing the points. It's all very tight."

Delecour was happy to see the cancellation of the last test as a cracked sump, caused by a heavy landing in the previous stage, was allowing oil to leak out. His only other concern today was a tyre vibration on the opening test, caused after he clipped a kerb and dislodged Pirelli's EMI anti-deflation system in his rear left tyre.

"The roads have been covered in a lot of dirt and at times it's been like a gravel rally," said 38-year-old Delecour. "But it's been good to have no real problems and be able to push hard. Tomorrow's stages are in the same area as yesterday's and will be just as slippery. I'm not sure we can catch Carlos but I'm looking forward to trying and we'll push as hard as we can."

News from our Rivals

Philippe Bugalski and Jesus Puras (both Citroën) again dominated, Bugalski posting three fastest times and moving ahead of his team-mate on the day's third stage. He ended with a 33.8sec lead, but it was Didier Auriol (Peugeot) who held second, not Puras. The Spaniard retired on the road section after what was to prove the final stage with low fuel pressure. Tommi Mäkinen (Mitsubishi) was engaged in a daylong battle with Gilles Panizzi (Peugeot), and the Frenchman stretched his advantage slightly while Mäkinen's team-mate, Freddy Loix, steadily fell back. Richard Burns (Subaru) clawed his way back to eighth but team-mate Markko Martin endured another bad day. Gearbox problems in the morning were compounded by electrical failure which caused the engine to stop five times during the long La Riba test. It was a problem the team were never to solve totally during the day. The other major retirement on the leg was Armin Schwarz (Skoda) who broke his steering on the opening test.

FIA Super 1600 Cup

François Duval (B) drove superbly as his Ford Puma climbed back from 15th to seventh in just three stages this morning following a puncture yesterday. He was twice third fastest before the youngster hit an oil patch and went off the road and retired on stage 10. Patrick Magaud (F) powered his Puma up to third before retiring with engine failure on the same stage. Martin Stenshorne (N) kept the Ford flag flying in fifth on a day of high attrition in the category which has seen the 23 starters reduced to only nine.

Tomorrow's Route

The final leg returns to the Girona region, north of Barcelona. After leaving Lloret de Mar at 06.45, drivers face a final two loops of three stages, covering 118.40km, before returning to the Costa Brava seaside resort for the finish at 16.56. The weather is forecast to be much cooler with temperatures down to 8°C, but still dry.

Leaderboard after Leg 2 1. P Bugalski/J-P Chiaroni F Citroën Xsara 2hr 24min 42.3sec 2. D Auriol/D Giraudet F Peugeot 206 2hr 25min 10.0sec 3. G Panizzi/H Panizzi F Peugeot 206 2hr 25min 52.7sec 4. T Mäkinen/R Mannisenmaki FIN Mitsubishi Lancer 2hr 26min 05.1sec 5. C Sainz/L Moya E Ford Focus RS 2hr 27min 05.8sec 6. F Delecour/D Grataloup F Ford Focus RS 2hr 27min 06.2sec 7. F Loix/S Smeets B Mitsubishi Carisma 2hr 27min 08.6sec 8. R Burns/R Reid GB Subaru Impreza 2hr 27min 28.1sec 9. S Jean-Joseph/J Boyere F Peugeot 206 2hr 28min 31.7sec 10 B Thiry/S Prévot B Skoda Octavia 2hr 29min 19.9sec

-Ford Racing

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About this article
Series WRC
Teams Citroën World Rally Team