WRC

Ford Rally Sport final report

Record-breaker McRae wins Safari Rally for Ford Ford Rallye Sport drivers Colin McRae and Nicky Grist today won Kenya's Safari Rally, the toughest event in the FIA World Rally Championship calendar. It was McRae's second consecutive world rally...

Record-breaker McRae wins Safari Rally for Ford

Ford Rallye Sport drivers Colin McRae and Nicky Grist today won Kenya's Safari Rally, the toughest event in the FIA World Rally Championship calendar. It was McRae's second consecutive world rally win and his 25th in all, moving him to the top of the all-time winners' list. He climbed to second in the championship standings.

Their Focus RS World Rally Car won the gruelling three-day, 2433km event by 2min 50.9sec after completing one of the toughest Safaris in history. Team-mates Markko Märtin and Michael Park finished fourth in another Focus RS, a superb result on their Kenyan debut, enabling Ford to slash Peugeot's lead in the manufacturers' championship to 14 points with six of the 14 rounds remaining.

A British victory was even more fitting in this 50th Safari. The rally was first run in 1953 to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

The Safari is a unique event in the sport. Almost three-times longer than a traditional world rally, much of it run on open roads and with the additional hazard of roaming wild animals, it is one of motorsport's great challenges. Heavy rains earlier in the year left the tracks rougher than usual and one particularly gruelling boulder-strewn section reduced competitors to a first-gear crawl at little more than 10kph. In contrast, sections across the vast, open plains saw cars driving flat out for several kilometres. Just 12 of the original 48 starters reached the finish in Nairobi.

McRae and Grist's pre-rally tactics of finding a comfortable pace which spared the Focus RS unnecessary punishment on the car-breaking roads worked to perfection. They took the lead early on the second day and were never headed, winning three of the 11 competitive sections.

"I'm absolutely delighted," said the 33-year-old Scot. "Today has seemed a very long day but now it's all over I can enjoy the victory and taking the record as the most successful driver. The key was to find a good pace and stay with it. It was uncomfortable when Harri Rovanperä was chasing us yesterday but that's the name of the game. I'd made up my mind not to change my pace.

"In Kenya you have to play the waiting game and wait for those who are initially quicker to have problems and that's what we did. I had no serious troubles and to win in Greece and here, the two toughest rallies in the championship, shows how good the Focus is in rough conditions," said McRae, for whom this is a third Safari win.

The conditions encountered on the rally were a shock for Märtin and Park. But they adapted quickly and reached third during the second leg. The 26-year-old Estonian driver, who started today in fifth, climbed one place, despite having to tackle the opening 106.56km section without pace notes after Park was mistakenly handed the notes for a difference section in the preceding service.

"This is a superb result for me and the Ford team," said Märtin, who narrowly escaped hitting a herd of cows on the final section. "After Carlos Sainz (team-mate) retired, it was important for me to bring the car home in the points for Ford. It's been a great experience for me on how to drive on rough, and they were very rough, tracks. Patience is the key and I was able to master that and keep the car on the road."

Jubilant Ford Rallye Sport team director Malcolm Wilson labelled McRae's win as one of the best the Scot has achieved. "I felt it was the most controled drive of Colin's career. He put all his experience to good use while Markko also produced a top-line performance. My intention was to build the strongest car to give the drivers confidence and it was fantastic. The key element in Kenya is the suspension and that's where our designers and engineers have concentrated their efforts," he said.

News from our Rivals

After two days of car-breaking action, drivers adopted a cautious attitude with the finish in sight. However, Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) lost fourth when broken rear shock absorbers dropped him a place but that result and third for Thomas Rådström represented a good result for the French team on Bastille Day. Gilles Panizzi (Peugeot) scored the final drivers' point. With Citroen not eligible for the manufacturers' series, the final points went to Roman Kresta (Skoda), Juha Kankkunen (Hyundai), who nursed an ailing car through today, and Alister McRae (Mitsubishi), who dropped time with shock absorber problems.

Next round

>From one classic rally, the championship moves to another. The huge jumps of Finland lie in wait when Jyväskylä hosts the Rally Finland on 8 - 11 August.

Final positions
1. C McRae/N Grist GB Ford Focus RS 7hr 58min 28.0sec
2. H Rovanperä/R Pietilainen FIN Peugeot 206 8hr 01min 18.9sec
3. T Rådström/D Giraudet S Citroen Xsara 8hr 17min 06.6sec
4. M Märtin/M Park EE Ford Focus RS 8hr 19min 56.0sec
5. S Loeb/D Elena F Citroen Xsara 8hr 20min 16.1sec
6. G Panizzi/H Panizzi F Peugeot 206 8hr 33min 09.0sec
7. R Kresta/J Tomanek CZ Skoda Octavia 8hr 53min 06.1sec
8. J Kankkunen/J Repo FIN Hyundai Accent 9hr 09min 59.5sec
9. A McRae/D Senior GB Mitsubishi Lancer 9hr 15min41.2sec
10 K Singh/A Oh MAL Proton Pert 10hr 27min 55.2sec

FIA World Rally Championship (after round 8 of 14) Drivers
1. M Grönholm 37pts
2. C McRae 30pts
3. C Sainz 23pts
4. G Panizzi 21pts
5. R Burns 19pts
6. H Rovanpeld 18pts
10 M Märtin 7pts

Manufacturers
1. Peugeot 83pts
2. Ford 69pts
3. Subaru 35pts
4. Skoda 8pts
5. Mitsubishi 7pts
6. Hyundai 6pts

-frs-

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Colin McRae , Harri Rovanpera , Gilles Panizzi , Alister McRae , Sébastien Loeb , Thomas Radstrom , Juha Kankkunen , Nicky Grist , Michael Park , Roman Kresta , Malcolm Wilson , Markko Martin
Teams Citroën World Rally Team