MÃ¤rtin heads treble points haul for Ford in Finland BP-Ford World Rally Team topped the points scoring on the Rally Finland today as three Focus RS World Rally Cars finished in the top seven of this ninth round of the FIA World Rally ...
Märtin heads treble points haul for Ford in Finland
BP-Ford World Rally Team topped the points scoring on the Rally Finland today as three Focus RS World Rally Cars finished in the top seven of this ninth round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Markko Märtin and Michael Park bounced back from last month's massive accident in Argentina to finish second while Janne Tuohino and Jukka Aho claimed fifth, ensuring Ford ended this fastest round of the championship as the leading points scorers.
Team-mates François Duval and Stéphane Prévot finished seventh to ensure a treble points haul in the drivers' series for the team. Ford remains second in the world championship standings with seven of the 16 rounds remaining while Märtin and Duval consolidated third and sixth places respectively in the drivers' table.
Average speeds topped 130kph during the three-day rally based among the forests and lakes of central Finland. Wide, hard gravel roads and dry, sunny weather provided perfect conditions for drivers to attack this most specialised round of the series. Stomach-churning jumps, which often hid bends, demanded precision driving and bravery from one side of the car while accurate delivery of pace notes was just as vital from the co-driver's seat.
Märtin, still suffering the after-effects of his 170kph south American crash, drove a superb error-free rally. After regaining his confidence and rhythm on the opening day, the 28-year-old Estonian proved too good for all his rivals except winner Marcus Grönholm, despite driving at less than normal pace. He was roared on throughout by an estimated 10,000 fellow countrymen who made the short trip across the Baltic Sea.
"This has been a really hard weekend," he said. "My body wasn't able to keep up with what my head was telling me to do. I really didn't expect it to be so difficult to drive but we've finished second and scored eight points so that is a good result. But I'm really happy it's over. If I had been 100 per cent fit then I would have been able to challenge Marcus. There has been good teamwork throughout, with a reliable car and some good tyre choices. The championship is still alive and we must now turn our attentions to a good result in Germany on the next round."
Finns Tuohino and Aho were drafted into the squad to add local knowledge and experience and the decision paid off. Twenty-nine-year-old Tuohino, competing for the Ford team for only the second time, set a fierce pace on the opening day during which he was third for much of the time. He was unable to match that speed on the second and third legs but achieved his goal of scoring a points finish. This was his fifth points result from five events this season.
"In one sense I'm a little disappointed because I thought I could finish in the top three here," he said. "But in the other I'm pleased to have scored points for Ford, which was the reason I was in the team. I've enjoyed the weekend but I just wish I could have reproduced Friday's pace for the other two days."
Duval and Prévot, whose experience of this rally is limited, were freed from the pressure of having to score points in order to gain more knowledge of the Finnish terrain. Twenty-three-year-old Duval adopted a cautious approach throughout and looked on course to claim seventh until a broken exhaust manifold on the second day cost more than two minutes. However, the Belgian battled hard through the final leg to regain lost ground and ensure his first finish in Finland in four attempts.
"It's been a long and tough weekend and I think this is the most difficult rally in the championship," said Duval. "But I've made big improvements with my pace notes and I felt confident enough to attack today to regain seventh. I found a good speed and rhythm all weekend. Next year I want fifth here and I want to win this rally within five years."
BP-Ford team director Malcolm Wilson was delighted with the weekend's results. "It's been a great comeback from Markko and he has given us a platform from here to take us through the second half of the season. François was strong at the end after his problems yesterday and I was pleased to see the desire in him to regain seventh. He showed great spirit and determination. Janne did exactly what we asked of him, producing a solid performance to score points," he said.
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Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot), who moved ahead midway through the opening leg, claimed his first victory since Argentina more than a year ago. Despite a noisy gearbox, for which the team had no replacement as the other broke yesterday, the Finn finished 34.7sec ahead of Märtin. Team-mates Carlos Sainz and Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) were untroubled as they maintained third and fourth. Jani Paasonen (Skoda) completed a superb debut for the Czech team to finish sixth while team-mate Toni Gardemeister collected the final drivers' point. Eleventh was sufficient for Gilles Panizzi (Mitsubishi) to claim the final manufacturer points. There were no major retirements today.
Next round Round 10 of the 16-rally championship brings teams their first taste of asphalt since the Monte Carlo Rally in January. The Rallye Deutschland is the first all-asphalt rally of the season and the first of three sealed surface rallies in the last seven events. It is based in Trier on 19 - 22 August.