Ford Martini drivers Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya and team-mates Colin McRae and Nicky Grist finished a superb first and second on the gruelling Cyprus Rally which ended today. Driving Ford Focus World Rally Cars, Sainz and McRae cruised through...
Ford Martini drivers Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya and team-mates Colin McRae and Nicky Grist finished a superb first and second on the gruelling Cyprus Rally which ended today. Driving Ford Focus World Rally Cars, Sainz and McRae cruised through the final leg for the Ford Martini team's second maximum points haul of the season in the FIA World Rally Championship.
The result extended Ford's lead in the all-important manufacturers' championship to 15 points with just four rounds remaining. McRae climbed to second in the drivers' standings, just two points behind leader Marcus Grönholm, and the victory also propelled Sainz into the title fight. He lies fourth, seven points behind Grönholm.
Intense temperatures, which today reached 37*C by the coast, and incredibly twisty mountain roads which were frequently littered with boulders, formed the hallmark of this demanding three-day event, 10th round of the championship.
Sainz and Moya laid the foundations for victory with a blistering performance on the opening day. Using Michelin's latest performance rubber, the Spaniards won seven of the nine speed tests. From then on they were able to control the rally from the front, leading McRae and Grist home by 37.3sec after almost 350km of competition. The victory was Sainz's first since the 1998 Rally New Zealand and moved him alongside Juha Kankkunen at the top of the all-time rankings with 23 wins.
"This was one of the best wins of my career," said 38-year-old Madrid-based Sainz. "It's been a very long time to wait, especially after coming so close on other occasions, and it's a fantastic feeling to be on the top of the podium again. I'm especially pleased to win a rally that's not been in the championship before and is new to all of us and now, with four rounds remaining, anything can happen.
"From the team's point of view it doesn't get any better than this. We're in a very strong position and with the Focus improving all the time, it's looking pretty good," added Sainz, who led from start to finish.
Second extended McRae's impressive recent form to two wins and three second places in the last six rallies. "It's not been an easy rally. The heat made it very difficult and the twisty and slow roads didn't really suit me. But second is a good result and it moves me closer to the championship lead. The team prepared well for this rally and their efforts paid off.
"We mustn't become complacent though. There's little to choose over the last four rallies between any of the drivers and, as we've seen in the last few rallies, championship positions can turn round very quickly," added the 32-year-old Scot.
Delighted team director Malcolm Wilson said: "This is a fantastic result for the Ford Martini team. We dominated the rally from the start and this not only strengthens our lead in the manufacturers' championship but moves Colin and Carlos nearer the front in the drivers' series. Carlos approached this event in a controlled way and quickly developed a good understanding of the stages on his first visit here. His neat and tidy style suited the twisty roads whereas Colin, who prefers faster events, never really felt comfortable but still produced a superb performance. After finishing first and second in Greece and now Cyprus, I'm developing a liking for hot, tough rallies!
"Before the event we put considerable effort into improving the suspension to absorb the punishment from the rocks and it paid off. It's also worth noting that yesterday, when Colin clipped a bank and the radiator filled with sand, the engine temperature rose to 130*C but was undamaged. It says much about its strength," added Wilson.
News from our Rivals Richard Burns (Subaru) had a bad start to the day when he discovered a nail in his tyre before the start of the first test. Once in the stage a misfire, later traced to a failed ECU system, cost 45 seconds. None of the other leading drivers experienced any difficulties on the final day. Tommi Mäkinen (Mitsubishi) overhauled Markko Martin (Toyota) for fifth and with Martin's team unregistered for the manufacturers' championship, seventh-placed Juha Kankkunen (Subaru) claimed the final point.
Next round The FIA World Rally Championship now switches back to asphalt for the first time since April. The Tour of Corsica, based in Ajaccio on (29 September - 1 October), is the first of two consecutive rounds on asphalt.
<pre> Final positions 1. C Sainz/L Moya E Ford Focus 5hr 26min 04.9sec 2. C McRae/N Grist GB Ford Focus 5hr 26min 42.2sec 3. F Delecour/D Grataloup F Peugeot 206 5hr 27min 35.7sec 4. R Burns/R Reid GB Subaru Impreza 5hr 28min 09.0sec 5. T Mäkinen/R Mannisenmaki FIN Mitsubishi Lancer 5hr 29min 03.1sec 6. M Martin/M Park EE Toyota Corolla 5hr 29min 50.3sec 7. J Kankkunen/J Repo FIN Subaru Impreza 5hr 33min 06.6sec 8. F Loix/S Smeets B Mitsubishi Carisma 5hr 34min 10.6sec 9. T Arai/R Freeman J Subaru Impreza 5hr 35min 20.8sec 10 S Jean-Joseph/J Boyere F Subaru Impreza 5hr 48min 21.0sec
2000 FIA World Rally Championship (after round 10 of 14) Drivers Manufacturers 1. M Grönholm 44pts 1. Ford 79pts 2. C McRae 42pts 2. Subaru 64pts 3. R Burns 41pts 3. Peugeot 58pts 4. C Sainz 37pts 4. Mitsubishi 35pts 5. T Mäkinen 28pts 5. Skoda 8pts 6. J Kankkunen 18pts 6. Seat 7pts