Portugal Ford Team Review

Ford maintains perfect finishing record in Portugal (25 March 1998) _________________________________________________________________ Ford preserved its remarkable reliability record on the 1998 FIA World Rally Championship when...

Ford maintains perfect finishing record in Portugal (25 March 1998) _________________________________________________________________ Ford preserved its remarkable reliability record on the 1998 FIA World Rally Championship when both Escort World Rally Cars of Juha Kankkunen and Ari Vatanen scored top 10 finishes on the Rally of Portugal which ended in Porto this evening. Both Escorts have finished each of the opening four rounds of the 14 event series, the only team which can boast a 100 percent record. Vatanen and co-driver Fred Gallagher finished fifth in their Valvoline-backed Escort after fighting off a determined challenge from Piero Liatti during a thrilling final leg. Ford World Rally team-mates Juha Kankkunen and Juha Repo finished seventh after a superb attacking drive today during which they put Liatti under tremendous pressure, clawing back 51.9 seconds on the Italian in just eight special stages. They ended just 12.7 seconds away from overtaking him and moving into the final points-scoring position. "I'm obviously very proud that once again both Ford Escorts have finished a world championship rally," said team director Malcolm Wilson. "Taking last years RAC Rally into account, it's now five rallies on the trot in which both cars have finished. We've been working hard on the car's reliability since the beginning of last year and it's clear for all to see that the Escort is currently the most reliable car in the world championship." Vatanen began today's final leg 7.2 seconds ahead of Liatti. The gap fluctuated all day over the dusty gravel roads and the pair started the last 11km stage split by just 6.1 seconds. A charging Vatanen did enough over the final kilometres to hold off Liatti by 4.0 seconds and earn his first finish in Portugal, 21 years and eight rallies after his first attempt. "We knew today would be a big attack from the start of this morning's first stage," said 45-year-old Vatanen. "After spending all rally avoiding taking any risks and concentrating on finishing, I have to say that today we took a few chances and it paid off. It was important to finish ahead of Piero to give Ford an extra point in the manufacturers' championship.I've really enjoyed being part of the Ford team for the Safari Rally and here in Portugal and would like to thank Malcolm for showing confidence in me. Bruno will return for the next rally and I'm sure this team is destined for a successful world championship season." A determined Kankkunen squeezed every ounce of performance out of the Escort in his bid to catch Liatti after losing second position yesterday with transmission difficulties. He set fastest time on today's sixth stage in the midst of a furious battle for victory between Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz but unfortunately the time gap proved too much. "It was always going to be difficult to catch Piero today but we came close and I think if this rally had lasted another stage we would have passed him," said 38-year-old Kankkunen. "We were actually faster than rally winner Colin McRae on today's leg so that gives some indication of how hard we were trying. 'We're testing immediately after this rally ahead of the next round in Spain and I'm looking forward to using the new and improved engine which will be in the Escort for that event," added 38-year-old Kankkunen, who still lies second in the drivers' championship. Wilson praised both his drivers for their efforts during the past four days. "Ari has done another fantastic job for the team. He's done exactly what I requested and finished in the points. As for Juha, this was probably one of his best drives since joining the team. Although the end result was disappointing, he held second for the best part or two days and his fightback today was superb. Just one more stage would have been enough to catch Liatti," he said. The fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship is Spain's Catalunya Rally, based in Lloret de Mar on April 20-22. Final positions 1 C McRae/N Grist GB Subaru Impreza 4hr 20min 58.1sec 2 C Sainz/L Moya E Toyota Corolla 4hr 21min 00.2sec 3 F Loix/S Smeets B Toyota Corolla 4hr 21min 43.9sec 4 R Burns/R Reid GB Mitsubishi Carisma 4hr 21min 51.2sec 5 A Vatanen/F Gallagher FIN Ford Escort 4hr 24min 18.3sec 6 P Liatti/F Pons I Subaru Impreza 4hr 24min 22.3sec 7 J Kankkunen/J Repo FIN Ford Escort 4hr 24min 35.0sec 8 G de Mevius/J-M Fortin B Subaru Impreza 4hr 27min 57.1sec 9 R Madeira/N Da Silva P Toyota Celica 4hr 31min 22.2sec 10 K Holowczyc/M Wislawski PL Subaru Impreza 4hr 32min 56.2sec 1998 FIA World Rally Championship (after round 4 of 14) Drivers Manufacturers 1 C Sainz 22 1= Toyota 25 2 J Kankkunen 16 1= Mitsubishi 25 3 R Burns 15 3 Ford 23 4 C McRae 14 4 Subaru 21 5 T Makinen 10 6 A Vatanen 6 _________________________________________________________________

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Series WRC
Drivers Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Juha Kankkunen , Ari Vatanen , Piero Liatti , Juha Repo