Sainz and MÃ¤rtin claim points double for Ford. Ford Rallye Sport maintained their record of scoring points on every round of this season's FIA World Rally Championship today. Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya finished fourth on the Rally Finland in a...
Sainz and Märtin claim points double for Ford.
Ford Rallye Sport maintained their record of scoring points on every round of this season's FIA World Rally Championship today. Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya finished fourth on the Rally Finland in a Ford Focus RS World Rally Car with team-mates Markko Märtin and Michael Park fifth in a similar car.
The team was on course to place all three Focus RS cars in the top six points scoring positions. However, Colin McRae and Nicky Grist, winners of the last two championship rounds, retired from third position when a spectacular fire ended their rally with just two speed tests remaining. Both were unhurt.
Ford's points haul keeps the team in second place in the manufacturers' standings while McRae and Sainz remain second and third respectively in the drivers' series.
The four-day, ninth round of the 14-rally series was fought out in glorious sunshine and the action on the smooth and sweeping gravel roads in central Finland was just as hot. Average speeds topped 132kph and the spectacular jumps for which this rally is so famous drew huge crowds deep into the forests to witness the battle.
Sainz, fourth overnight, extended his slender advantage over Petter Solberg (Subaru), on the day's opening special stage. However, despite posting joint fastest time on the next test and increasing his lead further, a 10 second penalty imposed for a jump start slashed the margin. Solberg beat Sainz through the next test to reclaim fourth and held off the Spaniard over the last three tests. The final difference was 4.2sec.
"After 15 years in rallying that's the first time I've ever made a jump start," said Sainz. "I'm fed up with the penalty but it was my mistake and that's life. I'm pleased to finish in the points but disappointed not to beat Petter and amazed by the speed of the winners. We have two asphalt events in front of us now and that's going to be difficult but the whole team is working hard to keep the improvements coming."
Märtin, so unhappy with his car's set-up during the first leg, was delighted with his final day's performance. "We've had great fun today, it was really enjoyable," said the 26-year-old Estonian driver. "I'm disappointed with my set-up mistakes earlier in the rally but hopefully I'll know better next year. I'm happy to score points and the result was even more important for Ford following Colin's retirement."
Märtin was the fastest driver on today's final leg, having been quickest on two of today's six stages and second fastest on two more, despite hurting his back after a heavy landing over one of the day's many big jumps.
McRae took no risks on the opening group of stages although neither did he ease off with Sainz and Solberg battling hard close behind him. Third place looked to be his until the end of the second run through the 11.84km Keuruu test.
"About 700 metres from the end we started to smell something and by the time we reached the stop line there was thick black smoke in the cockpit," said McRae. "We couldn't see or breathe. We leaped out and the whole of the rear of the car from the back wheels onwards was on fire. We tried to put the flames out but every time we thought we'd done it, they re-ignited. Eventually a fire tender arrived and put the fire out with foam.
"Thinking back, we saw people waving us down for the last couple of kilometres of the stage but we thought they were just enthusiastic fans. It's so disappointing because everything had gone so well. The car ran perfectly all rally, the pace notes were good and it's even more frustrating because we were so close to the finish. Third would have been a good result, one we would have settled for before the start," added the Scot.
Ford Rallye Sport team director Malcolm Wilson said it appeared a large rock flattened the exhaust and smashed the rear differential and leaking oil dripped onto the exhaust, causing the fire. "It's disappointing to lose Colin so close to the finish and shows the importance of having a third car running strongly. Our engineers are putting a lot of work into improving the performance of the car for the final five events and we're working hard with Pirelli to ensure the best possible tyres for the forthcoming asphalt rallies," he said.
News from our Rivals
Marcus Grönholm and Richard Burns (both Peugeot) were untroubled to give the French manufacturer maximum points and enable the Finn to extend his championship lead to 17 points. Petter Solberg (Subaru) claimed the final podium place while McRae's retirement allowed the Norwegian's team-mate, Tommi Mäkinen, to claim the final drivers' point in sixth. Today saw two major retirements. Alister McRae (Mitsubishi) stopped with damaged rear suspension and Thomas Rådström (Citroen) crashed on the penultimate test.
Next round The championship returns to asphalt and visits Germany for the first time when Trier hosts the Rallye Deutschland on 23 - 25 August.