Markko Martin toppled his own teammate, Francois Duval, out of the overall lead on Saturday, the second day of World Rally Championship competition. The Ford Focus duo won all four of today's stages on Rallye de France - Tour de Corse, following...
Markko Martin toppled his own teammate, Francois Duval, out of the overall lead on Saturday, the second day of World Rally Championship competition. The Ford Focus duo won all four of today's stages on Rallye de France - Tour de Corse, following the three out of four they took on Friday, setting the stage for a possible and much-needed Ford victory Sunday.
"It's been a difficult, but good, day," Martin explained. "We've had every type of weather you can imagine in the mountains. One moment it's nice and the next it's raining. It changed all the time and it worried me all day. (My setup) is not perfect, it never is in Corsica, but it's worked superbly for me.
"Francois is obviously my biggest threat but our main challenger could turn out to be the weather. The team needs a one-two finish and so far it has been a Ford show."
The challenge for the WRC teams was the tire choice amidst changing road conditions - from soft tires for dry to the intermediate tire options for wet. Martin chose correctly in the first two special stages, taking the overall lead from Duval despite a punctured tire on SS6.
"I can't believe how sunny it is here in the service park," said Martin after SS6, "because in the mountains we've had every type of weather you can imagine. One moment it's nice and the next it is raining. The edges of the road are quite sharp and when you cut corners, it's easy to collect a puncture. The finish is all downhill, and it was very difficult in the braking areas."
Duval ended the day 20.8-seconds adrift of his Estonian teammate. However, he has a comfortable edge over third place Sebastien Loeb. The young Belgian has enjoyed the battle with Martin, "We didn't push too hard this morning," commented Duval. "The weather is changing a lot, we made good tyre choices and I am enjoying fighting with Markko."
Loeb remains focused on his opportunity to win his first WRC title on the same rallye he made his WRC debut in 1999. The Citroen driver has had quiet runs in the first two days of the rallye as he runs a controlled pace.
Prior to the event, Loeb had stated where his mindset is for the Corsica event, "If I feel comfortable with the Xsara and if I'm in good form, then the Corsican stages, which are no more demanding than those of the Monte Carlo or Germany, should enable me to battle for victory without taking any unconsidered risks."
Considering the weather changes and other outside factors, Loeb made it very clear what his goal was for the team and himself. "If there would to be a sudden change in weather, I will immediately re-focus on the championship and on securing the five points I need to clinch the title. Carlos (Sainz) has told me, and he is right, that the championship is more important than winning in Corsica!"
The Frenchman's main rival for the title continued to have issues today. Petter Solberg is just not pleased with his Subaru, "We're trying everything -- absolutely everything -- but nothing seems to work," exclaimed the Norwegian at the service area prior to the final two stages.
The defending WRC champion does not believe he can mount a final challenge to stop Loeb from taking the crown, but that does not mean he will give up the fight.
"It's difficult to describe why we're not quicker," said Solberg. "I think it's a little bit of everything. For sure, a heavy rain shower would be welcome now, but there's nothing we can do about that. We just have to keep on driving and see what we can do."
Robert Cedric who held sixth overall in his debut of the Peugeot 307 at the end of Friday crashed on the opening stage Saturday, an incident which delayed his teammate Marcus Gronholm.
"We started today with a strong rhythm, but two kilometres into the first stage there was a right hand corner with some standing water on the inside," explained Cedric about his crash. "I underestimated the extent of it and the car spun across the road into a wall, damaging the radiator and putting us out of the rally. I feel very annoyed with myself as I don't normally make mistakes like this and we had a good possibility of doing well here."