Racing Report RÃ¥dstrÃ¶m and Ford in the points on Rally Argentina Ford Martini pairing Thomas RÃ¥dstrÃ¶m and Fred Gallagher achieved their target of a points scoring finish on the Rally Argentina when they finished sixth on this seventh...
Racing Report Rådström and Ford in the points on Rally Argentina
Ford Martini pairing Thomas Rådström and Fred Gallagher achieved their target of a points scoring finish on the Rally Argentina when they finished sixth on this seventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship which ended in Cordoba this afternoon. It was a successful return for the Swedish driver, competing for the first time since breaking a leg in February and tackling the gruelling four-day event for the first time.
Rådström has delivered a remarkably consistent performance over the rock-strewn gravel special stages - a mixture of narrow, twisty mountain tracks and fast, flowing roads across the vast open plains. He settled into sixth after the third of the rally’s 22 stages, covering almost 400km, and was still there when the finishers were greeted by thousands of cheering fans at Cordoba’s Olympic Stadium this afternoon.
The rally was one of great attrition, just 25 of the 72 starters finishing as the rough roads took their toll on man and machine. However, Rådström’s Ford Focus never missed a beat. His only real difficulty came this morning when water seeped into the car after a deep watersplash, misting the windscreen and forcing him to stop as co-driver Gallagher wiped it clear.
“I feel really good now,” said a delighted Rådström at the finish. “We came here to Argentina to learn about the rally, learn about the roads and learn about the car and I think we’ve done all of those things quite well. It’s superb for me to finish in the points after so long away from the driving seat. I’m really looking forward to the next round in Greece now.”
Ford Martini team director Malcolm Wilson praised Rådström’s performance and said the team had learned valuable information about the Ford Focus, still in its early days of development. “Thomas has driven exceptionally well here considering it’s his first appearance in Argentina and we’re encouraged by the way the Focus stood up to the punishment on what is one of the hardest rounds in the championship.
“We’ll go away with a lot of data which will put us in good stead for Greece, an event on which Thomas has competed before and one which Colin McRae has won, so I think we have every reason to be confident of a good result there,” he added.
News from our Rivals
A terrific fight between Subaru team-mates Richard Burns and Juha Kankkunen provided one of the closest finishes in world championship history. Kankkunen reeled in Burns throughout the day and they started the final 21.33km test with the Briton ahead by just 1.2sec.
But a fourth fastest time of the leg for Kankkunen gave him victory by 2.4sec to move him level with Carlos Sainz as the most successful drivers in world championship history - each with 22 victories. It was Kankkunen’s first world championship win since the 1994 Rally of Portugal. With Didier Auriol safe in third, Sainz and Tommi Mäkinen provided the support act to the lead battle. The Finn closed the gap on Sainz to just 1.4sec before the penultimate stage. But then gearbox problems hit Sainz, the Spaniard losing almost a minute to allow Mäkinen up to fourth. Piero Liatti’s hopes of challenging Rådström ended when a heavy landing after a vicious crest damaged his Seat’s radiator and water cooler. Mechanics patched the car up in a bid to allow the Italian to finish but his engine refused to start at the service park before the final stage and he retired. The only other major retirement today was Freddy Loix who rolled his Mitsubishi, breaking the car’s suspension.
Once again there is little chance for reflection as the World Championship drivers are back in action again in just 12 days. The series returns to Europe for Greece’s Acropolis Rally on 6 - 9 June, when drivers must cope with searing temperatures and the roughest special stages of any European rally in the championship.
Final positions 1. J Kankkunen/J Repo FIN Subaru Impreza 4hr 17min 15.4sec 2. R Burns/R Reid GB Subaru Impreza 4hr 17min 17.8sec 3. D Auriol/D Giraudet F Toyota Corolla 4hr 17min 55.0sec 4. T Mäkinen/R Mannisenmaki FIN Mitsubishi Lanc 4hr 18min 40.6sec 5. C Sainz/L Moya E Toyota Corolla 4hr 19min 43.5sec 6. T Rådström/F Gallagher S Ford Focus 4hr 22min 07.3sec 7. G Trelles/M Christie ROU Mitsubishi Lanc 4hr 39min 46.2sec 8. J Recalde/J Garcia RA Mitsubishi Lanc 4hr 41min 09.0sec 9. C Menzi/R Ortiz RA Subaru Impreza 4hr 41min 33.0sec 10 F Dor/K Gormley F Subaru Impreza 4hr 45min 18.2sec
1999 FIA World Rally Championship (after round 7 of 14) Drivers Manufacturers 1. T Mäkinen 32pts 1. Toyota 67pts 2. D Auriol 32pts 2. Mitsubishi 41pts 3. C McRae 23pts 3. Subaru 36pts 3. C Sainz 23pts 4. Ford 35pts 5. P Bugalski 20pts 5. Seat 8pts 6. J Kankkunen 18pts