Ford driver Markko Martin has taken his second victory of the year on the ninth round of this year's FIA World Rally Championship -- the Neste Rally Finland. He started the day with more than a minute's advantage over Peugeot driver Richard Burns,...
Ford driver Markko Martin has taken his second victory of the year on the ninth round of this year's FIA World Rally Championship -- the Neste Rally Finland. He started the day with more than a minute's advantage over Peugeot driver Richard Burns, who was hit by a wheel-bearing failure in the closing stages of yesterday.
Just one second covered second, third and fourth places at the start of the day, and a furious battled raged right up until the final stage. At the last minute, Petter Solberg snatched second place from Richard Burns. Carlos Sainz finished fourth. Burns extends his lead over Sainz in the drivers' championship by one point. Peugeot maintains its lead of the manufacturers' series, although the gap to Citroen in second is reduced by four points.
Marlboro Peugeot Total
Technical: The Peugeot 206WRC of Richard Burns ran without mechanical problems today. Both the other Peugeots retired yesterday. Harri Rovanpera was out after going off the road on SS12. Marcus Gronholm was forced to retire from the lead after SS14, as a result of broken suspension and a lost front wheel.
Sporting: Burns started the day in second place, but dropped to third after the opening stage of the day when he was passed by Subaru driver Petter Solberg. He re-took second after setting fastest time on SS20, but Solberg took the place back off him on the final stage of the day, SS23.
Richard Burns said: "It's been a good rally, and I was driving like crazy, but I didn't want to take too many risks today. To come away with six points and still leading the championship is superb. I was trying very hard to beat Petter today and he was trying very hard to beat me. It was a good fight!"
Technical: The two remaining Citroens of Sebastien Loeb and Carlos Sainz ran without major mechanical problems today. Colin McRae retired yesterday in an accident on SS16.
Sporting: Carlos Sainz started the day in third place but dropped to fourth after being passed by the Subaru of Petter Solberg on today's first stage. He broke a left-rear damper on SS19, which caused him to drop time on the following stage as well. Sebastien Loeb's mission today was to keep the car on the road and secure a strong fifth-placed finish, which he succeeded in doing.
Carlos Sainz said: "Today was very difficult for me with the broken damper. I tried my best, but I also wanted to get the car to the finish."
Sebastien Loeb said: "I did not find this rally easy, as I really did not have so much experience of all the stages. But we were still able to set some good times so I'm encouraged. The car felt good: I think we've definitely made some progress."
Ford Motor Company
Technical: Markko Martin's Ford Focus RS WRC03 ran reliably all day to take the Estonian to his second career victory. The other Focus RS WRC03 of Francois Duval retired 5.5 kms into SS19 after hitting a stone, while the 2002 specification Focus of Mikko Hirvonen retired after SS11 yesterday following a turbo fire.
Sporting: Markko Martin started the day with an advantage of over a minute and controlled his pace all day in order to be sure of sealing the victory. He eventually ended up with a winning margin of just under a minute. Francois Duval was under instructions to finish the rally in order to learn the roads, but retired on SS19 after hitting a stone and damaging the left-front wheel beyond repair.
Markko Martin said: "I've dreamed of winning here ever since I was a young boy. This is the Grand Prix of the rally world and it's so special to be successful here because so few non-Finns have won this rally. We have the fastest car in the championship, we've won the fastest event and this is more special to me than my first win in Greece."
Francois Duval said: "We came over a crest and there was a big stone on the following left-hand corner which we hit. We weren't going too fast but it's not easy when the notes aren't perfect."
555 Subaru World Rally Team
Technical: Both Subaru Impreza WRC2003s of Tommi Makinen and Petter Solberg have run reliably throughout the day.
Sporting: Solberg started the day fourth in a tight three-way battle for second place together with Richard Burns and Carlos Sainz. On the opening stage of the day he leapfrogged both his rivals to take second, but he was passed by Richard Burns on SS20. Solberg fought back to take the runner-up spot from Burns on the final stage of the day. Makinen has finished the rally sixth after a solid run, despite being hampered by tyre mousse vibration problems on the second day. He made small adjustments to the differential settings today but was otherwise happy with his car.
Petter Solberg said: "On the final stage I just went mad: I was practically standing up in my car! I nearly went off on the first corner and bent the throttle pedal! There's no way I could have driven quicker. The final result is excellent and I'm so happy."
Tommi Makinen said: "It's not been a perfect weekend for us but at least we've finished in the points. I have to say that Petter drove absolutely magnificently -- he did a tremendous job."
Hyundai World Rally Team
Technical: The two Hyundai Accent WRC"s of Freddy Loix and Armin Schwarz and were generally reliable throughout the day. However, Jussi Valimaki retired 5.5kms into SS19 after hitting the same stone as Francois Duval.
Sporting: All three cars had a steady run today, aimed firmly at getting to the finish. But Jussi Valimaki hit a rock and retired with suspension damage. Freddy Loix's 10th place and Armin Schwarz's 12th place earned the team 3 manufacturers points.
Freddy Loix said: "Although today wasn't such an exciting day as I had to protect my points, I'm very pleased to be in that position in Finland and this makes me more optimistic going to Australia that we can continue to move forward."
Armin Schwarz said: "We've had no major problems with the car throughout the event and to get to the finish here and get the extra manufacturers' point I consider to be a real success."
Jussi Valimaki said: "The first day was much better for me because I had a better feeling even though my times on the second day were quicker. On the final day the car felt great after changing the differential mapping a bit, although in the end we weren't able to take advantage of it."
Technical: Both Skoda Fabia WRCs were forced into retirement before the final day. Didier Auriol did not start the rally on Friday morning as a result of an old shoulder injury. The other Fabia WRC of Toni Gardemeister retired at the start of SS13 as a result of engine damage.
Sporting: Gardemeister started off yesterday in 12th place, which he held up until his retirement. His engine stalled on the start of SS13, and he could not get it going again despite the advice from his team over the telephone.
Daniel Carlsson has taken Suzuki's first-ever Junior World Rally Championship win ahead of Renault driver Brice Tirabassi. Ford driver Guy Wilks was third after an event that has been characterised by punctures for the JWRC runners. Former World Champion Ari Vatanen has had an excellent rally in his privateer Peugeot 206 WRC and has finished 11th overall. Three local experts have filled out the top 10: Janne Tuohino (Ford Focus) in seventh, and the Peugeot 206 WRC of Sebastien Lindholm and Juuso Pykalisto in eighth and ninth.