Clear blue skies and warm sunshine greeted the 46 competitors who left Perth this morning for the long journey south-east to the SOTICO pine plantation where the final four speed tests of this penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship will be held. Large crowds have gathered there to enjoy the spectacular Bunnings jumps and watersplash viewing points, an integral part of this third leg of Rally Australia.
The action began with the short 5.63km Bannister Central and Ford Rallye Sport’s Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya were second fastest in their Focus RS World Rally Car to maintain fourth overall. However, on the following twisty 28.65km Bannister South the Spaniards rolled, losing a minute and sliding to fifth, 13.4sec behind Tommi Mäkinen.“About 600 metres after the start, at a very slow first gear junction, the car hit a rock in a rut and just turned over,” said Sainz. “It landed back on its wheels and we only lost five or 10 seconds. But the turbo pipe was ripped off in the accident and we had to drive the rest of the stage with no boost which is why we lost more time.”
The accident damaged the bonnet and wing panels and also cracked the windscreen on the Focus RS which was replaced by the team at the following service park.
Markko Märtin and Michael Park moved ahead of Ford Rallye Sport team-mates Francois Duval and Jean-Marc Fortin on the opening stage but the young Belgian driver repassed Märtin on the longer test. The two Focus RS cars remain sixth and seventh, Duval now 7.0sec ahead of the 26-year-old Estonian. “We spun and stalled the engine on the long stage which cost us some time but otherwise all was OK,” said Duval. “We’re not fighting with Markko because we don’t want to risk anything. Finishing the rally is the important thing for us.”
Märtin felt today’s tests were less difficult than yesterday’s, although he was still struggling to come to grips with pace notes with which he has felt uncomfortable all rally. “We drove very, very carefully and, like Francois, we are taking no risks. There is no battle between us,” he added.
Leaderboard After Stage 22
|1. M Grönholm/T Rautiainen||FIN||Peugeot 206||2hr 59min 27.0sec|
|2. H Rovanperä/R Pietilainen||FIN||Peugeot 206||3hr 00min 24.6sec|
|3. P Solberg/P Mills||N||Subaru Impreza||3hr 00min 30.3sec|
|4. T Mäkinen/K Lindström||FIN||Subaru Impreza||3hr 01min 45.6sec|
|5. C Sainz/L Moya||E||Ford Focus RS||3hr 01min 59.0sec|
|6. F Duval/J-M Fortin||B||Ford Focus RS||3hr 04min 10.9sec|
|7. M Märtin/M Park||EE||Ford Focus RS||3hr 04min 17.9sec|
|8. T Gardemeister/P Lukander||FIN||Skoda Octavia||3hr 05min 17.3sec|
|9. S Loeb/D Elena||F||Citroen Xsara||3hr 06min 52.3sec|
|10 J Kankkunen/J Repo||FIN||Hyundai Accent||3hr 07min 19.3sec|