Markko Martin took his first career World Rally Championship victory in Greece on Sunday, June 8, cruising on the final stage for the win. Martin and co-driver Michael Park held the lead at the end of each of the two previous days, winning with a...
Markko Martin took his first career World Rally Championship victory in Greece on Sunday, June 8, cruising on the final stage for the win. Martin and co-driver Michael Park held the lead at the end of each of the two previous days, winning with a 55.8 second lead over Carlos Sainz.
The bonnet flying up and blocking Martin's view, on the first day's stage five, was the only real problem the team experienced. "The only time I thought maybe we weren't going to win this event, was when the bonnet flew up."
Martin went into the final day of the 50th running of the Acropolis Rally with a plan to not push it but to run up front, and to avoid errors and mechanical problem in the recently launched Ford Focus RS WRC 3. This was the third rally for the new Focus.
In Argentina, the team of Martin and Park were leading going into the final day when they had a engine problem on the opening stage. After the disappointment of losing Argentina, Martin and Park badly wanted this victory.
"I've dreamt of this day for a lot of years," said Park. "There are a lot of people who I'll be thanking at home in Britain for getting me to this stage. Markko has driven a great rally, showing he can even do it when he can't really see where he's going!"
An engine problem also took the duo out of the New Zealand Rally while running a strong second overall in the debut of the new Focus. The win today was even sweeter after last year's puncture tire while leading.
Martin and Park placed just well enough on each stage today to notch the victory: 2nd in 17, 5th in 18, 6th in 19, 7th in 20, 3rd in 21, and 4th in the final stage.
The battle for second was between Citroen and Subaru. Petter Solberg started the day in third just over 20 seconds behind Sainz, and both wanted to chase down Martin and nip away at his comfortable lead.
On the first stage of the day, Solberg flew through for the win, a clear ten seconds ahead of Martin, placing him just under five seconds behind the Citroen of Sainz for second on the leaderboard.
Solberg went on to win the 18th stage and after his third win of the day on the stage 20, he took the second overall spot from Sainz.
Sainz, not one to just lay back, charged in the 21st stage for the win in the penultimate stage and the second overall position back in his pocket. Of course, Solberg helped his cause by spinning twice in the penultimate stage and finishing the stage a dismal seventh.
"The car was just perfect so we came back in the fight and could hold our position," stated Sainz. "Our second place secures our rankings in both Championships and that's simply great."
Solberg did come back in the final stage to take the win, notching four of the six stage victories in the final day. Solberg just missed second by 6.7 seconds as Sainz took third in the 22nd stage.
"I tried my best and did end up taking some risks today, but I've had to settle for third place," commented Solberg. "I suppose that I'm happy with third, but disappointed at the same time. Still, I have a good feeling in the car and I'm looking forward to Cyprus."
Colin McRae started today comfortably in fourth on the leaderboard, the Citroen driver had a 31 second lead over Subaru's Tommi Makinen and Peugeot's Richard Burns. The battle for fourth developed early in the going.
McRae actually looked to beat his teammate Sainz when on the first stage today, he took third and was gaining on Solberg and Sainz. As the event continued, the consistency shown by McRae started to slip away and then on stage 21, the Citroen lost power costing McRae valuable time. McRae finished 22nd on the stage, managed an eighth in the final stage to secure a championship point for the overall finish.
"For sure I'm disappointed. But we set some good times and it's showing we performed well here," commented an unhappy McRae.
Makinen was not pleased with his tire choice as he felt that he made on his final service stop, "I think I made an incorrect tyre choice on that last group of stages, and on balance they were too soft."
Burns was happy to just walk away witht the points lead, "Looking on the positive side, my aim on this event was always to come away still in the championship lead and I've been able to achieve that."