Duval and MÃ¤rtin in points for Ford as Turkey sizzles Ford BP Rallye Sport drivers FranÃ§ois Duval and StÃ©phane PrÃ©vot and team-mates Markko MÃ¤rtin and Michael Park both hold points-scoring positions after today's second leg of the Rally of...
Duval and Märtin in points for Ford as Turkey sizzles
Ford BP Rallye Sport drivers François Duval and Stéphane Prévot and team-mates Markko Märtin and Michael Park both hold points-scoring positions after today's second leg of the Rally of Turkey. The Belgians are fifth in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car while Märtin and Park recovered lost ground after yesterday's difficulties and climbed back into the FIA World Rally Championship manufacturer points on the final speed test.
It was another gruelling day for drivers in the southern mountains above Kemer where they tackled six more all-gravel speed tests covering 151.83km, the longest leg of this seventh round of the series. The roads were drier than yesterday as the heat reached levels unmatched on a world rally anywhere other than in Kenya in recent years. Ground temperatures of 47°C and air temperatures of 35°C were recorded in the mountains, providing the toughest of tests for drivers, cars and tyres.
Duval and Prévot, lying fifth after leg one, made a superb start by posting second fastest time on each of the first two stages to climb to fourth and close the gap on Petter Solberg in third.
"It was a good morning but I was lucky to escape quite a big incident on the second stage," said Duval. "About 10km from the end, I slid wide at a fifth gear left corner and hit something very hard. The impact took a big chunk out of the front right tyre and we were lucky not to lose the wheel." Michelin's ATS anti-deflation system worked well to keep the rubber inflated and the Belgians lost no time.
But Duval struck problems on the next stage. "About 5km after the start I lost drive to the right front wheel," he explained. "We tried to make repairs after the finish but the same thing happened again just after the start of the next stage. There was nothing I could do apart from lock the differentials and drive as fast as I could. I feel a little demoralised because everything was going so well this morning."
Duval lost more than 2min 30 sec in total and dropped to sixth after also overshooting a junction and stalling the engine. Ford BP mechanics replaced the front right driveshaft in service and also fitted a cross shaft through the front differential.
Twenty-three-year-old Duval bounced back to regain a place on the final stage, ending 1min 57sec behind Carlos Sainz and 28.7sec ahead of Mikko Hirvonen. "The car was perfect again. I'll try to continue in the same rhythm tomorrow because I don't think it's necessary to push too hard," he added.
Märtin and Park began in 43rd and last position after yesterday's problems. They were either first or second car to tackle today's stages in their Castrol-branded Focus RS, a far from ideal situation on roads that had dried to expose loose, slippery gravel. With no chance of a good overall position, the 28-year-old Estonian driver's sole aim was to regain a manufacturers' points position and he also used the opportunity for some testing.
He tried new suspension components as well as a new construction of a tyre introduced by Michelin on the previous round in Greece earlier this month. "I didn't drive flat out but was still competitive which is good. I could do no more than keep going and hope that one more manufacturer-entered car retired and then we would be back in the points. That happened on the final stage this evening so that has made today worthwhile," he said.
"We went off the road briefly on the last stage. I braked too late for a hairpin and went off backwards into a ditch. Luckily we were able to restart immediately. It was our bit of excitement for the day!" added Märtin who is 27th.
Ford BP team director Malcolm Wilson reflected on a day of mixed fortunes. "Obviously I'm disappointed that François had problems. He was lying fourth and closing on third at the time. But he is still in a points position and a lot can still happen tomorrow. It's satisfying that Markko is back in the manufacturer points. He worked hard to make repairs and stay in the rally last night and his efforts have been rewarded because we now have both cars in points positions," he said.
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Leg one leader Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) and Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot) were involved in a thrilling battle for top spot. Loeb extended his overnight 7.5sec lead but he was penalised 10 seconds for a jump start on the second stage and Grönholm moved ahead. Two stages later the Finn hit a metal bar which pierced the floor panel and smashed into the underside of co-driver Timo Rautiainen's seat. Grönholm stopped when Rautiainen cried out in pain and Loeb moved back ahead. He ended the day with a 15.9sec lead. Petter Solberg (Subaru) was untroubled in third while Harri Rovanperä (Peugeot) charged up into fourth, despite minor brake troubles this morning. However, his efforts were in vain when he stopped on the final stage with a broken gearbox. Carlos Sainz (Citroen) is fourth, despite feeling ill throughout the day, while Mikko Hirvonen (Subaru) is sixth behind Duval, despite a puncture which ripped the tyre open near the end of stage 11.
The final leg is the shortest of the three, covering just 77.90km of competition. After leaving Kemer at 06.30, drivers tackle two loops of two identical speed tests before returning for the finish at 14.31. Both stages are unused so far this year and the second on each loop is new to the rally.