BP-Ford claims double points haul on Rally Italia Sardinia BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen and team-mates Roman Kresta and Jan Mozny both secured points finishes today after a gruelling Rally Italia Sardinia.
BP-Ford claims double points haul on Rally Italia Sardinia
BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen and team-mates Roman Kresta and Jan Mozny both secured points finishes today after a gruelling Rally Italia Sardinia. Their Ford Focus RS World Rally Cars headed a quartet of Focus cars on the leaderboard of this fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, which produced an extraordinarily high rate of attrition.
Gardemeister finished fifth, 59.9sec ahead of Kresta, for whom sixth was a career-best result. It ensured Ford extended its remarkable run of points-scoring finishes to 49 consecutive events, a record which dates back to the 2002 Monte Carlo Rally. Private entrants Antony Warmbold and Michael Orr matched their career-best result with seventh while Mark Higgins and Trevor Agnew survived last-day dramas to finish 10th in their Eddie Stobart Motorsport Focus RS.
The three-day rally in the north of the sun-kissed Mediterranean island was characterised by narrow and rough gravel roads. Initially sandy, the tracks became extremely rough after the passage of a few cars and conditions were so tough that only 23 of the original 66 starters completed the entire route. The rocky roads and temperatures which climbed to 28°C provided arduous conditions for tyres, but Michelin's rubber proved perfectly matched to both the Focus RS cars and the mountain tracks.
After incurring a five minute penalty for not completing last night's final stage when an oil warning light flashed on, Gardemeister was able to re-start this morning. The BP-Ford team diagnosed a broken oil pump which they replaced to restore the Castrol-branded Focus to full health. The Finn quickly regained the fifth place that he relinquished last night and posted two top three times on today's six speed tests west of the rally base in Olbia.
"I've been cruising today, driving at a pace which ensured I would finish," said 30-year-old Gardemeister. "Considering I wasn't pushing, I was happy with my stage times. We scored good points and when I was throwing stones for five hours in the dark in the woods last night waiting for the team to come and collect our car, I didn't think that would be possible. It's been a tough weekend but one which turned out well. My pre-event test helped establish a good set-up for the Focus, and although I'm not 100 per cent there yet, everything is heading in the right direction."
Kresta, competing here for the first time, proved that on a rally of such attrition a cautious strategy was sensible. He took no risks, maintained an even pace throughout the 17 special stages covering 348.19km, and was rewarded with his best result.
"I can't believe it!" said the overjoyed Czech. "It was vital for both me and the team to finish this rally. Just being here at the end was my primary target. I've driven very, very carefully and it paid off. Not only did I finish, but I finished in the points and took my best result. The first stage this morning was so dusty it was like driving in fog but otherwise all has gone well today."
Warmbold was equally delighted. "I had an alternator problem all day but I adjusted the belt before the final stage to ensure we had enough charge to make the finish," said the German, whose Focus RS was pushed into the final service park. "I made a perfect tyre choice today and although it's been a tough three days, I'm so happy."
Higgins started the day in sixth but a problem with the gear actuator forced the Manxman to revert to the back-up manual gearchange system from the usual semi-automatic version. However, a slipping clutch three stages from the end required emergency roadside repairs. Despite incurring two minutes' penalty, he hung on for a top 10 finish. "It's been hard work all weekend," said Higgins. "This morning I thought I could hold off Roman but the clutch troubles ended that. But I'm delighted to be driving the Focus RS on a world championship rally and happy with my result."
News from our Rivals
Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) took no risks to claim his third win of the season and move into the lead of the driver's championship. His winning margin over Petter Solberg (Subaru) was 59.6sec and he now holds a one point advantage over the Norwegian. Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot) completed a superb recovery from his first day roll to finish third, comfortably seeing off team-mate Markko Märtin. Private entrant Juuso Pykälisto took the final drivers' point in eighth. François Duval (Citroen), who rolled on the first day, and Janne Tuohino (Skoda), who went off the road on the second leg, returned under the SupeRally rules to finish 11th and 13th respectively and take the final manufacturers' points. Harri Rovanperä (Mitsubishi) started the day in the final podium position but a broken front right compression strut ended his rally after stage 13. Team-mate Gigi Galli's (Mitsubishi) troubled rally ended after the opening stage with a broken gearbox. Armin Schwarz (Skoda), due to restart under the SupeRally rules, was excluded late last night for receiving outside assistance shortly after yesterday's early morning service.
Round six of the championship is the first of three consecutive hot weather, rough gravel rallies in the eastern Mediterranean. The Cyprus Rally is based in Limassol on 12 - 15 May.