MÃ¤rtin and BP-Ford claim back-to-back win in Spain BP-Ford World Rally Team claimed its second world rally victory in two weeks when Markko MÃ¤rtin and Michael Park won the Rally Catalunya in Spain today. Their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car ...
Märtin and BP-Ford claim back-to-back win in Spain
BP-Ford World Rally Team claimed its second world rally victory in two weeks when Markko Märtin 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.
Just two weeks ago in Corsica, Märtin and Park claimed their first asphalt victory on the Rallye de France in their Castrol-branded Focus RS. This weekend they won five of the 19 sealed surface speed tests and, after taking the lead early on the second leg, controlled their pace at the top of the leaderboard to allow their rivals no opportunity to make a challenge. The result moved Märtin to within three points of Petter Solberg in the drivers' championship and the fight for the runners-up position will go to the final rally next month.
The smooth and flowing roads close to the town of Vic presented a tough challenge for both man and machine. Although the forecast rain kept away during all three days, overnight rain left roads slippery in the morning and cool temperatures ensured they did not dry as quickly as hoped. It made tyre selection difficult. But accurate data from team personnel in the special stages and the expertise of the engineers from the BP-Ford team and Michelin ensured the rubber on the Focus RS matched the conditions throughout.
Märtin and Park started today's final leg with a 39.7sec lead over Marcus Grönholm. With such a comfortable advantage, they were able to drive cautiously and monitor their rivals' pace.
"I drove according to the split times of the other drivers, which the team sent to us electronically during the stages," said Märtin. "I just matched their pace and drove carefully. As a result I probably drove badly, because it's more difficult to drive relatively slowly than it is when you drive at normal pace."
They survived a minor scare on the penultimate test when an engine misfire caused concern. However, they changed the spark plugs and coils in the engine before the final 35.18km test, the longest of the rally, and completed it without further trouble.
"We have spent the last two days at the top of the leaderboard with nothing to gain but an awful lot to lose," said the 28-year-old Estonian driver. "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!" he added.
BP-Ford team director Malcolm Wilson was treated to a champagne bath by his team as Märtin arrived back at the service park in Vic, before saying: "For the second time this month, Markko has driven a fantastic rally. His pace has been controlled right from the start and his performance over the last two days was a model example in how to dictate a rally from the front. He set five fastest times and François Duval set three on the first leg before retiring, emphasising again that the Ford Focus is the car to beat on asphalt."
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Marcus Grönholm (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.
After two consecutive asphalt events, the championship returns to gravel for the final round. Perth is the host city for the Rally Australia on 11 - 14 November.