Ford Martini drivers Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya finished third on the Swedish Rally today to move to the head of the FIA World Rally Championship. The Spanish duo used all their experience behind the wheel of their Ford Focus World Rally Car...
Ford Martini drivers Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya finished third on the Swedish Rally today to move to the head of the FIA World Rally Championship. The Spanish duo used all their experience behind the wheel of their Ford Focus World Rally Car during a dramatic final day to earn their fifth podium finish in six years in Sweden and move into a three-way tie at the top of the standings.
François Delecour and Daniel Grataloup finished fifth in their Focus RS while team-mates Colin McRae and Nicky Grist completed a superb fightback from their first day accident to finish ninth and claim two manufacturers' points. Ford was the only team with both nominated drivers in the points to retain second in the series.
For the first time in many years, snow and temperatures which dipped below -20°C created true winter weather. The snow and ice-covered gravel roads were in perfect order for the drivers and the predominantly blue skies and bright sunshine created picture postcard conditions for the huge crowds of spectators deep in the forests.
Sainz started the final leg amid a four-car battle for victory and edged ever closer to third-placed Thomas Rådström, starting the final special stage just 4.2sec behind the Swede. Sainz could not catch him but still secured a well-deserved third following the demise of Tommi Mäkinen in the final few kilometres.
"There have been many ups and downs in this rally but third is a good result for me and the points keep Ford in a strong position in the manufacturers' championship," said 38-year-old Sainz. "We tried very hard to catch Thomas in the last stage but conditions were very tricky with snow lying on top of icy ruts. It's encouraging to come away at the top of the championship after the two most unpredictable rallies of the series and we must now capitalise on that start."
McRae, whose incredible run of seven fastest times ensured Ford scored more stage victories than any other team for the second consecutive event, climbed back from 49th following his first day accident. He almost secured eighth but with Kenneth Eriksson in his sights, a spin and a problem with the hydraulic gearchange system on the final stage meant he had to settle for ninth.
The 32-year-old Scot spun and stalled his Focus after 4km and then a further 6km into the 21.21km test a connector in the gearchange system became dislodged, forcing the hydraulics to lock the gearbox in sixth gear.
"After losing so much time on the first day and having to come from so far back, it's quite satisfying to score points for the team," said McRae. "That was my only target. It was an exciting rally and during our run of fastest times, the feeling was fantastic. We were having fun, driving quickly in superb conditions and taking time back from everyone. We had a few troubles today but we still scored points for Ford and that was what mattered."
Delecour was disappointed not to finish fourth following Mäkinen's retirement but delighted with the performance of his Focus. "It's one of the trickiest rallies in the championship," he said. "We had to drive the final stage with the mechanical gearchange system which wasn't easy in such conditions but a points finish is good."
Ford Martini team director Malcolm Wilson was happy with the outcome. "Colin's first day mishap was expensive from a victory point of view but he drove with great determination and motivation to fight back. Carlos drove well, as always, and deserved his reward. Pirelli's tyres were excellent in the snow but we suffered a little on the more gravely conditions found in the stages that were repeated," he said.
News from our Rivals
Harri Rovanperä (Peugeot) became the latest Finn to join the winners' circle on a world championship rally, the 32-year-old collecting his maiden world rally victory on his debut for the team. He finished 27.9sec ahead of Thomas Rådström (Mitsubishi), also on his first drive for his team. But the biggest loser was Rådström's team-mate, Tommi Mäkinen, who rolled out of a secure second just 2km into the final stage. Didier Auriol (Peugeot) was today's other main retirement, the Frenchman stopping on the third stage with transmission problems. Privateer Toni Gardemeister scored points for the second consecutive rally after climbing two places on the final test. Petter Solberg (Subaru) collected the lastl drivers' point while Bruno Thiry (Skoda) scored the last manufacturers' point after moving into the top 10 on the final stage.
Drivers have a short break until the Rally of Portugal in Porto on 8 - 11 March. As the first traditional gravel rally, it is regarded as the first real form guide for the season. <pre> Final positions 1. H Rovanperä/R Pietilainen FIN Peugeot 206 3hr 27min 01.1sec 2. T Rädström/T Thörner S Mitsubishi Carisma 3hr 27min 29.0sec 3. C Sainz/L Moya E Ford Focus RS 3hr 27min 38.1sec 4. T Gardemeister/P Lukander FIN Peugeot 206 3hr 29min 06.4sec 5. F Delecour/D Grataloup F Ford Focus RS 3hr 29min 26.3sec 6. P Solberg/P Mills N Subaru Impreza 3hr 29min 49.6sec 7. D Carlsson/B Melander S Toyota Corolla 3hr 30min 19.3sec 8. K Eriksson/S Parmander S Hyundai Accent 3hr 30min 36.9sec 9. C McRae/N Grist GB Ford Focus RS 3hr 31min 29.9sec 10 B Thiry/S Prévot B Skoda Octavia 3hr 32min 24.7sec
FIA World Rally Championship (after round 2 of 14) Drivers 1= C Sainz 10pts 1= T Mäkinen 10pts 1= H Rovanperä 10pts 4= F Delecour 6pts 4= T Rådström 6pts 6. T Gardemeister 5pts
Manufacturers 1. Mitsubishi 23pts 2. Ford 14pts 3. Skoda 6pts 4. Hyundai 5pts 5. Subaru 4pts