Ford claimed its second world rally victory in two weeks when Markko Martin and Michael Park won the Rally Catalunya in Spain today. Their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car finished this penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship in the ...
Ford claimed its second world rally victory in two weeks when Markko Martin and Michael Park won the Rally Catalunya in Spain today. Their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car finished this penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship in the mountains north of Barcelona 23.2sec ahead. The result confirmed that Ford will finish second in the manufacturers' series.
Marcus Gronholm (Peugeot) was fastest on the final three stages to take second, fending off the challenge from Spanish hero Carlos Sainz (Citroen), competing on home ground for the final time in his career. The gap between the two was 14.5sec. Ex-Formula 1 racer and private entrant Stephane Sarrazin finished a superb fourth, ahead of outgoing world champion Petter Solberg. Team-mates Dani Sola and Gigi Galli (Mitsubishi) were sixth and seventh, separated by just 0.2sec. It was a career-best result for Sola, who survived a late scare when his car briefly caught fire while waiting to enter the final service park. Mikko Hirvonen (Subaru) took the final manufacturers' points in eighth. He edged out Toni Gardemeister (Skoda) during a tight final day battle.
At the end of the 194th rally of his brilliant career, Carlos Sainz, with the help of Marc Marti, fought until the very end with Marcus Gronholm for second place, and added a 96th podium - his eighth of the season - to his unequalled, possibly unbeatable, career record.
Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: Retired
Carlos Sainz / Marc Marti: "I really tried everything to get passed Marcus. He was able to put up strong resistance, bravo! Seb was unlucky here. He was really 'very fast', and I think he could have won. For us, this was a rally full of emotion, the last time through these special stages, in front of my public. The result doesn't really matter, in the end. The crowds flocked to support us. They gave me a wonderful gift, and I would like to thank them"
After a difficult event for the Subaru team, Petter Solberg and Mikko Hirvonen ended today's final Leg of Rally Catalunya in fifth and eighth place respectively. Both drivers claimed points in the Manufacturers' and Drivers' Championships, and both their Subaru Impreza WRC's ran without any mechanical problems all weekend. With the 2004 Championship titles wrapped up on the previous rally in Corsica, both Mikko and Petter used this weekend as an opportunity to test tyres and car set-ups for future events.
Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: "It's been a difficult weekend. We got back in one piece, with some points and gathered some useful data, that's the main thing, but of course I know that we have the potential to do so much better. Now though it's time to re-focus on the next event. We won Australia before, we've dominated the last few gravel rallies and I'm hungry for another rally win."
Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen: "Like Petter I have found this event quite frustrating at times, but I went as fast as I could go in the conditions and for sure I've learned a lot about the car and tyres on these particular roads. My target throughout the whole weekend was to get as close to Petter's pace as possible and things certainly improved as I got more experience."
BP-Ford World Rally Team claimed its second world rally victory in two weeks when Markko Martin and Michael Park won the Rally Catalunya in Spain today. Their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car finished this penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship in the mountains north of Barcelona 23.2sec ahead. The result confirmed that Ford will finish second in the manufacturers' series.
Markko Martin / Michael Park: "We have spent the last two days at the top of the leaderboard with nothing to gain but an awful lot to lose. When Sebastien Loeb retired yesterday morning, it took away our only remaining rival. But today has been tough. It was easy to hang onto first place, but difficult to keep the right pace and not make any mistakes on roads that were pretty slippery. The team has again been fantastic. Michelin's tyres worked perfectly and together we made some really good tyre choices, which is such a crucial factor in mixed conditions. Last year the Focus RS was the fastest car on asphalt and we had nothing to show for it. Now we have proved twice in two weeks that it's still the best car and I'm delighted for everyone in the team. October has been rather a good month!"
Francios Duval / Stephane Prevot: Retired
Peugeot driver Marcus Gronholm has finished Spain's Catalunya Rally in an excellent second overall after a completely trouble-free run over all three days of the asphalt event.
Marcus Gronholm / Timo Rautiainen: "The car has felt good throughout the rally, although we still have a lot of work to do. But we are definitely heading in the right direction now, which is very encouraging. I'm also very pleased that we had no mechanical problems at all during the three days of the event. It's very positive sign for the future that gives me a lot of confidence."
Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets: Retired
The Skoda Motorsport World Rally Team completed the Catalunya Rally with Toni Gardemeister ninth and Armin Schwarz in 11th place. Today saw Toni set top four times on SS16 and 17 to gain two places before service but he was driving with a worsening fever and this afternoon he narrowly lost out in a tense battle for eighth place with the Subaru of Mikko Hirvonen.
Skoda Motorsport has now completed its 2004 rally programme as it will not contest the final WRC event of the year in Australia. During its seven-round programme of World Championship rallies the team has seen the first stage win for the Fabia WRC (set by Armin in Germany) and the best overall result for the car at this level with Jani Paasonen taking sixth in Finland. Additionally Armin, Toni and Jan Kopecky won national events in Germany, Finland and the Czech Republic respectively.
Armin Schwarz / Manfred Hiemer: "The high point of this season was proving that the work we did while we were away had been in the right direction and that the Fabia is now much more competitive. We were able to secure a full programme for 2005 and I am feeling very positive about that. My personal high point was winning a stage on my home rally."
Toni Gardemeister / Paavo Lukander: "The roads this morning were always damp and often very wet but it seems we found the right set-up for the conditions. It enabled me to pass a couple of drivers but this afternoon it was impossible to keep Mikko behind me as I have been getting a fever since yesterday. However my times seemed to have improved as well so maybe I should get sick more often!"
Jan Kopecky / Filip Schovanek: Retired
The Mitsubishi Motors WRC team demonstrated the pace and potential of the Lancer WRC04 during Rally Catalunya - Rally de España, the team's first World Championship outing since Germany in August. Between them, Gilles Panizzi, "Dani" Solà and "Gigi" Galli claimed no fewer than 19 top six fastest stage times, with both Gilles and Dani also placed inside the top three and Gigi in the top four. At the end of the 20 stage, 384.08 competitive kilometer event, Solà claimed sixth overall with Galli hot on his heels in seventh. Both were rewarded with World Championship points.
Gigi Galli / Guido D'Amore: "I'm very, very happy. Our goal was to finish, but we have also done so in a good position. It's not so much of a surprise as the car and my confidence has improved a lot. We have helped the team, not fought with Dani and made any mistakes, so for this I am happy."
Dani Solà / Xavier Amigo: "I really enjoyed the support from my home spectators and didn't want to let them down, but I had to mix this feeling with doing my job, finishing the rally, being fast and consistent during this important competitive test for the team."
Next week teams will cross the globe to Australia for the sixteenth and final round of the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship. Beginning on Thursday 11 November with a blast around a Super Special, the rally will proper start on Friday 12 November at 0700hrs when cars leave parc ferme. Based around the Western Australia capital city of Perth, crews will contest 388.25 competitive kilometres and 25 gravel stages over three days. The event will conclude when the winning car crosses the finish ramp in Perth at 1600hrs on Sunday 14 November.