Points double for Ford duo on Monte Carlo Rally Ford Rallye Sport made a strong start to the 2002 FIA World Rally Championship by finishing third and fourth on the Monte Carlo Rally which ended in Monaco this afternoon. Carlos Sainz and Luis...
Points double for Ford duo on Monte Carlo Rally
Ford Rallye Sport made a strong start to the 2002 FIA World Rally Championship by finishing third and fourth on the Monte Carlo Rally which ended in Monaco this afternoon. Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya took the final podium place in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car while Colin McRae and Nicky Grist were just one place behind. All results remain provisional following a protest concerning rally winner Sebastien Loeb (see News from our Rivals).
The three-day rally, fought out on twisty asphalt roads high in the French Alps, was one of the mildest for many years. Snow was virtually non-existent and the roads alternated between wet and dry with only a few ice patches to trap the unwary. The classic roads acted as a magnet to fans and huge crowds lined the speed tests to see the world's best drivers in action.
Sainz, lying third overnight in front of Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot) after fighting back from a spin and power steering problems on the opening two legs, extended his advantage during today's four special stages based around the famous Col de Turini. He was consistently fast and ended the 388km of competition 42.3sec ahead of team-mate McRae.
"I'm very happy with this result, especially given our earlier problems which made a top three finish unlikely at the time," said the 39-year-old Madrid-based driver, three times a winner in Monte Carlo and scoring his 10th podium finish on this event. "It's a good start to the season for Ford and one upon which we'll look to build in Sweden. "We pushed hard this morning and our tyre choice was ideal. Once we began to increase our advantage over Marcus it was a question of maintaining a steady pace."
McRae had a more difficult task. Engine problems last night dropped him behind Grönholm and he began the day with a 31sec deficit to catch up. With the Focus' engine restored to full health, the 33-year-old Scot reeled in the Finn and passed him on the penultimate test, ending the rally 9.4sec ahead.
"This was the most straight-forward Monte Carlo Rally that I have tackled because the conditions were so clear," he said. "I didn't take too many risks because it was important to finish and get the year away to a good start. It's my best result here since 1998 so I'm satisfied. Before the rally we didn't know what to expect and an all-asphalt rally wouldn't have been our choice but in the end it's worked out well."
Markko Martin and Michael Park drove to orders on their debut in a Focus RS and finished 12th after gaining in both confidence and speed as the rally went on. Determined to finish after his only previous attempt at the rally ended in retirement before the first stage, the 26-year-old Estonian drove with caution as he tested various different set-ups to find a specification with which he felt comfortable.
"I'm delighted to finish," he said. "That was my aim, those were my orders and I've learned much about this rally. I made a few poor tyre choices and one of the biggest things I've learned is always to trust our tyre engineers because they're right! I've felt more comfortable with the car as the rally has gone on and I'm looking forward to Sweden."
News from our Rivals
A dramatic final day left the result in confusion. Rally sensation Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) was penalised two minutes early this morning for illegally changing tyres in last night's short service park in Monaco following the final stage. Citroen appealed and the outcome will be decided by an FIA Court of Appeal within the next few weeks. The penalty was controversially not taken into account in the provisional standings. On the stages Loeb had a scare on the opening test when his engine stopped but fired up again a few seconds later. Second-placed Tommi Mäkinen (Subaru) stands to benefit if Citroen's appeal is dismissed. This would be his fourth consecutive Monte Carlo success and would take him to the top of the all-time victory list with 24 world rally wins. Behind the Ford duo, Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot) and Petter Solberg (Subaru) took the final drivers' points, Solberg quickest on three of the day's four stages. There were no major retirements today.
Junior World Championship
Belgian Francois Duval guided his Ford Puma to a 4min 14.9sec victory on the opening round of the Junior World Championship. The 21-year-old Belgian cruised through the final day and was joined in the top six points-scoring positions by two other Pumas. Lebanon's Roger Feghali impressed greatly en route to third with Swede Daniel Carlsson fourth. On a rally of huge attrition, five of the seven Pumas finished, Martin Rowe being joined on the retirement list today by Spaniard Marc Blazquez with a broken gearbox.
After little snow and ice in Monte Carlo, the championship moves to a rally where there should be plenty. The Swedish Rally, based in Karlstad on 1 - 3 February, is the only true winter event in the 14-round championship.
Provisional final positions
1. S Loeb/D Elena F Citroen Xsara 3hr 58min 44.8sec
2. T Mäkinen/K Lindström FIN Subaru Impreza 3hr 59min 30.7sec
3. C Sainz/L Moya E Ford Focus RS 4hr 00min 46.4sec
4. C McRae/N Grist GB Ford Focus RS 4hr 01min 28.7sec
5. M Grönholm/T Rautiainen FIN Peugeot 206 4hr 01min 38.1sec
6. P Solberg/P Mills N Subaru Impreza 4hr 02min 00.3sec
7. G Panizzi/H Panizzi F Peugeot 206 4hr 02min 50.8sec
8. R Burns/R Reid GB Peugeot 206 4hr 03min 47.1sec
9. F Delecour/D Grataloup F Mitsubishi Lancer 4hr 05min 06.4sec
10. T Gardemeister/P Lukander FIN Skoda Octavia 4hr 06min 13.1sec
FIA World Rally Championship (after round 1 of 14)
1. S Loeb 10pts
2. T Mäkinen 6pts
3. C Sainz 4pts
4. C McRae 3pts
5. M Grönholm 2pts
6. P Solberg 1pt
1. Subaru 12pts
2. Ford 10pts
3. Peugeot 4pts