MÃ¤rtin and BP-Ford victorious in Rallye de France Markko Martin and Michael Park today won the Rallye de France after their BP-Ford World Rally Team dominated the asphalt event on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. Their Ford Focus RS World...
Märtin and BP-Ford victorious in Rallye de France
Markko Martin and Michael Park today won the Rallye de France after their BP-Ford World Rally Team dominated the asphalt event on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. Their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car crossed the finish line in Ajaccio with a lead of 2min 02.0sec after three-days of flat-out driving over slippery mountain roads.
The Focus RS led the rally, round 14 of the FIA World Rally Championship, from the first of the 387.80km of competition. Martin and Park won seven of the 12 speed tests with team-mates Francois Duval and Stephane Prevot winning another three after a tremendous battle for supremacy between the BP-Ford duo. Their duel ended early this morning when Duval unfortunately retired with engine problems.
This was the first asphalt success for the new-design Focus RS and the first sealed surface victory of Martin's career. His other three wins have all been on gravel. The 28-year-old Estonian climbs to third in the drivers' series while his victory consolidated second place in the manufacturers' standings for Ford.
Corsica lived up to its reputation for providing inconsistent weather. Bright sunshine contrasted with heavy storms to ensure conditions on the winding asphalt roads were unpredictable. But accurate data from the team's safety crews and personnel located in the mountains enabled tyre selection to be trouble free, and Michelin's rubber proved ideally suited to the mixed conditions to provide perfect grip.
Martin initially led during the opening leg before Duval moved ahead. However, he regained top spot early on the second day and was never again headed. He won three of today's four special stages to complete an emphatic performance.
"It's a great moment for me to win on asphalt for the first time," said Martin. "Corsica is the classic asphalt event and the ultimate one to win. It has been a brilliant weekend and we've had a really impressive run. Today was enjoyable but Friday and Saturday were really hard work. It was satisfying to be able to enjoy today after having put in the hard effort for the previous two days.
"When I stared my career, I had three goals. One was to win the Rally Finland, one was to win on asphalt, preferably in Corsica, and the other was to win the world championship. I have achieved the first two so I only have one more to go. We've finally been able to use the Christian Loriaux-designed Focus RS to its full potential on asphalt this weekend. We've had the fastest car for two years on this surface and at last we've made it all work. It was important for me to win here and full credit to the team. I've had a really low summer and now we have blown everyone away," he added.
Duval and Prevot re-started this morning in second place in their Focus RS, just 20.8sec behind Martin. However, the Belgians' hopes of a final day fight with the Estonian, and the team's hopes of a one-two finish, ended on the opening stage when they stopped with an engine problem.
"About 1km after the start the water temperature and oil warning lights came on," said 23-year-old Duval. "The car then dropped onto three cylinders and I knew at that point that my rally was over. We finally stopped after 7km when there was a small fire under the bonnet, which we quickly put out. I'm incredibly disappointed."
BP-Ford team director Malcolm Wilson was overjoyed with his team's first victory since the Rally Mexico in March. "This weekend we have seen outstanding performances from Markko, Francois and the Ford Focus RS World Rally Car. We always knew that the Focus RS was outstanding on asphalt and these last three days have proved that. Ten fastest times from 12 stages, and five one-twos during the first two days, shows just how dominant we have been," he said.
"Both drivers were superb. They had a tremendous battle for the first two days during which the lead changed hands three times between the two of them. It's a shame the fight had to end with Francois' retirement, but I'm even more sure now that his first victory is not far away. Markko was outstanding. He never put a foot wrong and I think we can see that a difficult few months are behind him," he added.
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Second place for Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) ensured the Frenchman secured his maiden drivers' title on home ground, with two events remaining. Team-mate Carlos Sainz was third and their efforts mean the manufacturers' title also goes to the French team. Following Duval's retirement, everyone moved up one place but there were no changes in the order. Private entrant Stephane Sarrazin took an excellent sixth while Armin Schwarz (Skoda) scored his first point of the season in eighth. Tenth place was enough for Mikko Hirvonen (Subaru) to claim the final manufacturers' points.
The penultimate round of the championship is again based in the Mediterranean and is the final rally of the season on asphalt. The Spanish resort of Lloret de Mar hosts the Rally Catalunya on 28 - 31 October.