Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya and team-mates Colin McRae and Nicky Grist maintained the Ford Martini team's impressive scoring record in the FIA World Rally Championship during Italy's Sanremo Rally which ended today. The Spanish duo finished the ...
Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya and team-mates Colin McRae and Nicky Grist maintained the Ford Martini team's impressive scoring record in the FIA World Rally Championship during Italy's Sanremo Rally which ended today. The Spanish duo finished the demanding three-day event in fifth in their Ford Focus World Rally Car with their British colleagues in sixth in another Focus.
The results keep both firmly in contention in the battle for the drivers' title. Sainz and McRae are tied in third with just six points covering the top four drivers and two rounds remaining. Ford Martini lie second in the manufacturers' standings, just two points behind the leaders.
Today's final leg in the mountains above the rally base of Sanremo was scheduled to be very short - covering just two stages and 40.74km. In reality it was even shorter. The opening 25km test was cancelled after 13 cars had completed it following an accident. The final 16km stage was stopped for safety reasons after the passage of just five cars.
For McRae and Grist just finishing the rally was an achievement. Just 11 days before the start 32-year-old McRae underwent hospital surgery to re-set a double fracture of his left cheekbone, incurred during an accident on the previous round in Corsica. That he was fit to start was a tribute to his powers of recovery and to finish in the points was a tribute to his determination.
"It's the hardest point I've ever scored and possibly the most satisfying," he said. "Even if I hadn't scored, competing here would have been extremely valuable after what happened in Corsica last month. Immediately after the accident my thoughts turned towards competing here but if the championship had not still been open, I would have found it difficult to find the motivation.
"The world title is still a good prospect and now I look forward to working on my fitness for the next round in Australia. That will be enjoyable because prior to this rally I've been able to do nothing except lie on my back," he added.
Fatigue was McRae's main obstacle but the Ford Martini team's medical personnel helped combat tiredness by using a special chamber for him to sleep in. It simulated sleeping at altitude by reducing the oxygen level which in turn raised his heart beat and increased the red blood cells in McRae's body to speed recovery.
Thirty-eight-year-old Sainz had no difficulty in maintaining his overnight position, but such are the high standards the Madrid-based driver has set this season, that he was disappointed not to finish even higher. "I was frustrated not to be able to mount a stronger challenge to the leading two drivers but the points we've gained here could prove to be vital at the end of the season," he said. "Both championships are wide open and I'm sure we'll be battling for the top positions again on the final two rounds. There's still much left to fight for."
Ford Martini team director Malcolm Wilson was happy that Sainz and McRae kept the team's points tally ticking over. "It's obviously good to have Carlos and Colin in the points but perhaps the best thing to come out of this rally for us was Colin's performance. After his dreadful accident in Corsica, it's fantastic to see him back and driving well. His confidence has returned and he should be virtually 100 per cent by the time Rally Australia comes around. It's building up to be a fantastic end to the season and the finale in Britain at the end of November promises to be thrilling."
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Team-mates Gilles Panizzi and Francois Delecour (both Peugeot) maintained their overnight positions to take first and second, Panizzi winning by 16.8sec. It was his second championship victory in succession and the results lifted the French team into the lead of the manufacturers' championship. Tommi Mäkinen (Mitsubishi) held on to third ahead of Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot) who hit a wall on this morning's opening stage and damaged the rear suspension. That result enabled him to stretch his lead at the top of the drivers' standings to five points.
The slippery gravel tracks of Western Australia are the setting for the penultimate round of the championship. The Rally Australia (9 -12 November) is based in Perth. <pre> Final positions 1. G Panizzi/H Panizzi F Peugeot 206 3hr 52min 07.3sec 2. F Delecour/D Grataloup F Peugeot 206 3hr 52min 24.1sec 3. T Mäkinen/R Mannisenmaki FIN Mitsubishi Lancer 3hr 53min 00.3sec 4. M Grönholm/T Rautiainen FIN Peugeot 206 3hr 53min 09.6sec 5. C Sainz/L Moya E Ford Focus 3hr 53min 18.6sec 6. C McRae/N Grist GB Ford Focus 3hr 53min 47.3sec 7. S Jean-Joseph/J Boyere F Subaru Impreza 3hr 54min 04.0sec 8. F Loix/S Smeets B Mitsubishi Carisma 3hr 54min 30.3sec 9. P Solberg/P Mills N Subaru Impreza 3hr 54min 39.0sec 10 S Loeb/D Elena F Toyota Corolla 3hr 55min 41.7sec
2000 FIA World Rally Championship (after round 12 of 14) Drivers Manufacturers 1. M Grönholm 49pts 1. Peugeot 90pts 2. R Burns 44pts 2. Ford 88pts 3. McRae 43pts 3. Subaru 70pts Sainz 43pts 4. Mitsubishi 39pts 5. T Mäkinen 32pts 5. Skoda 8pts 6. G Panizzi 21pts Seat 8pts