Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya headed a Ford Martini one-two at the end of today's second leg of the Cyprus Rally. Their Ford Focus World Rally Car led team-mates Colin McRae and Nicky Grist as this 10th round of the FIA World Rally returned to ...
Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya headed a Ford Martini one-two at the end of today's second leg of the Cyprus Rally. Their Ford Focus World Rally Car led team-mates Colin McRae and Nicky Grist as this 10th round of the FIA World Rally returned to Limassol after another gruelling day's driving on the sun-baked Cypriot mountain tracks.
The Spanish pair, who won seven of yesterday's nine speed tests to lead from the start, displayed a more controlled pace over today's eight special stages. Content to protect their overnight advantage over the same roads tackled yesterday, they set consistently quick times, ending with fastest time on the final stage, to lead McRae and Grist's Focus by 64 seconds.
The weather in the Troodos mountains was even hotter than yesterday. Road surface temperatures of 44*C and air temperatures of around 36*C made conditions demanding for drivers, engines and tyres during the 114.50km of competition.
"It's been another very good day," said 38-year-old Sainz. "The Focus is a very strong car, it's working well and seems to be getting better and better all the time. We've concentrated on maintaining our lead and I felt much happier once we had completed the two long tests (stages 13 and 14) because they're the hardest of the rally.
"Tomorrow's stages will be faster and I must keep my concentration. I can't afford to think about the finish yet because there's a long way to go. This is a tough rally and after losing the world championship just 300m from the end in 1998, I know surprises can happen at any time," added Madrid-based Sainz.
McRae, fourth last night, waited until the longest and toughest stage of the rally this afternoon before launching his attack. The 31.87km road from Mylikouri to Monashilakas is the twistiest and narrowest of all but McRae sped to fastest time, climbing instantly to second place. He ended the stage with two punctured tyres but Michelin's ATS mousse system ensured the rubber remained inflated.
"We knew that was the stage where we could make up time," said McRae. "It was long and rough and none of the remaining stages offered the same opportunity. It's been very, very hot today, worse than yesterday, and at times it felt like a sauna in the car.
"Tomorrow will be unpredictable. The first few cars will clean the gravel from the roads and so we'll be at a disadvantage there. I'll try to catch Carlos but only up to a point. More than a minute is a lot to regain and I don't think there's enough kilometres left to do it. Our real priority is to keep Richard Burns behind us and second would be good with Marcus Grönholm having retired," added the 32-year-old Scot.
Ford Martini team director Malcolm Wilson reflected on another superb day for the team. "Carlos has done a fantastic job in controlling the rally from the front. He stamped his authority on the event yesterday and has driven exceptionally well to maintain his lead today. Colin has put us in a very strong position with regard to the manufacturers' championship, which is very important to Ford.
"Both cars are in a very good condition, better than on the Acropolis Rally which is held in similar conditions. The roads here are rough and hard but because they're slower the damage to the cars is less," added Wilson.
News from our Rivals
After yesterday's carnage which sidelined 20 of the 52 starters, just three cars failed to complete today's leg. The only major retirement was Toni Gardemeister (Seat) whose car slid off the road 17km after the start of the long stage 14. Although undamaged, it was impossible to regain the track. Richard Burns (Subaru) climbed to second during the morning but damaged a front right suspension strut on stage 13. It broke on the following test and the Briton dropped almost a minute. He lost a further minute on the final stage when a broken propshaft left him with front-wheel drive only for much of the 11.99km test. Rally officials reduced team-mate Juha Kankkunen's penalty for an infringement at a control point from five to three minutes late last night. He enjoyed a troublefree day today until a broken front right brake caliper two stages from the end cost time but no positions. Francois Delecour (Peugeot) lost almost a minute on stage 14 when his car lost its brakes but still lies third. Tommi Mäkinen (Mitsubishi) found his engine lacking power in the high altitude mountain stages 13 and 14 and the team fitted a new turbocharger at the following service. Team-mate Freddy Loix recovered well from yesterday's roll. The Belgian set two fastest times, his first since the Acropolis Rally in 1998, to climb to eighth.
The setting for the final leg switches to the north-east of Limassol where drivers face a total of six stages, two of which are repeat runs, covering 88.75km. They leave the town at 08.00 and return for the finish ceremony at 16.43.
Leaderboard after Leg 2 1. C Sainz/L Moya E Ford Focus 4hr 04min 58.6sec 2. C McRae/N Grist GB Ford Focus 4hr 06min 02.6sec 3. F Delecour/D Grataloup F Peugeot 206 4hr 06min 59.8sec 4. R Burns/R Reid GB Subaru Impreza 4hr 07min 45.1sec 5. M Martin/M Park EE Toyota Corolla 4hr 08min 49.8sec 6. T Mäkinen/R Mannisenmaki FIN Mitsubishi Lancer 4hr 09min 04.3sec 7. J Kankkunen/J Repo FIN Subaru Impreza 4hr 12min 22.4sec 8. F Loix/S Smeets B Mitsubishi Carisma 4hr 13min 33.4sec 9. T Arai/R Freeman J Subaru Impreza 4hr 14min 04.1sec 10 G Trelles/J Del Buono ROU Mitsubishi Lancer 4hr 20min 30.6sec