Ford today celebrated a double points finish on Kenya's Safari Rally, the most gruelling round of the FIA World Rally Championship, when Carlos Sainz and Petter Solberg each drove their Focus World Rally Cars to top six finishes. Sainz and ...
Ford today celebrated a double points finish on Kenya's Safari Rally, the most gruelling round of the FIA World Rally Championship, when Carlos Sainz and Petter Solberg each drove their Focus World Rally Cars to top six finishes. Sainz and co-driver Luis Moya ended the three-day event, the third round, in fourth with Solberg and co-driver Phil Mills one place behind in fifth.
Intense heat, with air temperatures approaching 40°C as the rally straddled the Equator during the second leg, and murderously rough gravel tracks with potentially car-breaking boulders, ditches and washaways in abundance, made this one of the toughest Safaris ever. Of the 51 starters, just 17 completed the 2690km route to reach the finish in Nairobi.
Sainz and Moya posted two more fastest times in their Ford Martini Focus on today's four competitive sections to add to the three they claimed yesterday. Their tally of five was matched only by rally winner Richard Burns.
The determination of the Spanish duo to conquer the Safari was clearly in evidence early this morning when Sainz was forced to drive the opening 112km section without power steering. He wrestled the Focus through the rocky section, dropping about 10 minutes, but recovered to maintain his overnight fourth position at the end of the rally.
Such was the effort that when he arrived at the following service park, the Ford Martini physiotherapist immersed Sainz's arms in buckets of ice to ease the pain. The sight provided great amusement for co-driver Moya. "There's so much ice around him that Carlos looks like a cocktail. I think he could fight Mike Tyson now, his arms are so big!" he joked.
"It's wonderful to finish," admitted 37-year-old Sainz. "When we damaged the shock absorbers and suspension on the opening day, we lost a lot of time and I really thought we would have to retire. But after we cured those troubles, the Focus ran very well and we set a strong pace yesterday and today. Three championship points are very important to me and the Ford Martini team."
Solberg impressed once again with another very mature drive, the 25-year-old Norwegian providing further evidence to those who believe his is a champion of the future. He twice set second fastest times on a section and refused to become ruffled when striking the inevitable difficulties that arise on this rally.
"If someone had told me 18 months ago that not only would I be a factory rally driver but that I would finish the Safari Rally in the points twice in a row, then I would have thought they were crazy," said Solberg, whose fifth matched last year's debut result. "Even to finish this rally is an achievement and this year we've set some good times. I've gained more valuable experience and I'm already looking forward to next year's Safari," he added.
Ford Martini team director Malcolm Wilson looked back with satisfaction. "It's been incredibly tough and to bring two cars to the finish is a fine achievement - a tribute to the drivers, engineers and mechanics. Five fastest times out of 12 from Carlos was an encouraging demonstration of the Focus' performance and Petter again displayed that he has a mature head on his young shoulders. That was a superb drive.
"Carlos lost time this morning with a power steering problem but his efforts in getting through that section were magnificent. We have a new steering system to be used on the next rally in Portugal for the first time and that fills us with confidence. It's still early days in championship terms but we've scored points on every round so far and to do so on the toughest rally of all is satisfying," he added.
News from our Rivals Richard Burns (Subaru) claimed his second Safari win with no late troubles to worry him while team-mate Juha Kankkunen was similarly unconcerned en route to second. The Briton took the lead on the rally's second section and when Kankkunen climbed to second a section later, the formation was set for the duration. Didier Auriol (Seat) endured a late scare when shock absorber and steering problems cost six minutes but he held on for his first points of the season. Armin Schwarz and Luis Climent (both Skoda) drove with caution to claim manufacturers' points while Teams Cup entry Toshihiro Arai scored the final drivers' point in Subaru's test car.
Next round The drivers have little opportunity for rest before round four of the championship, the Rally of Portugal, based in Porto on 16 -19 March. As the first traditional gravel rally of the series, it is widely regarded as a form guide for the season to come.
Final positions 1. R Burns/R Reid GB Subaru Impreza 8hr 33min 13sec 2. J Kankkunen/J Repo FIN Subaru Impreza 8hr 37min 50sec 3. D Auriol/D Giraudet F Seat Cordoba 8hr 55min 57sec 4. C Sainz/L Moya E Ford Focus 9hr 01min 31sec 5. P Solberg/P Mills N Ford Focus 9hr 04min 40sec 6. T Arai/R Freeman J Subaru Impreza 9hr 18min 06sec 7. A Schwarz/M Hiemer D Skoda Octavia 9hr 32min 11sec 8. L Climent/A Romani E Skoda Octavia 9hr 51min 13sec 9. C Menzi/E Galindo RA Mitsubishi Lancer 10hr 39min 07sec 10 R Sanchez/J Del Buono RA Subaru Impreza 10hr 57min 05sec
2000 FIA World Rally Championship (after round 3 of 14) Drivers 1. T Mäkinen 16pts 2. R Burns 12pts 3. J Kankkunen 11pts 4. M Grönholm 10pts 5. C Sainz 9pts 6= C McRae 4pts 6= D Auriol 4pts
Manufacturers 1. Subaru 25pts 2. Mitsubishi 18pts 3. Ford 13pts 4. Peugeot 11pts 5. Seat 7pts 6. Skoda 4pts