Ford Rallye Sport drivers Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya finished fourth on the Rally New Zealand today to preserve the team’s record of scoring points on every round of the FIA World Rally Championship this season. The Spanish duo and their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car survived a collision with a tree just three speed tests from the end of the demanding three-day Auckland-based event, round 12 of the 14-rally series.
Ford is the only team to register points on every rally to date and Sainz’s result was particularly impressive after a fraught first leg which left him at the very bottom of the top 10 leaderboard. The team remains second in the championship standings.
Already weary drivers had an hour cut from their sleep last night when the clocks moved forward in New Zealand. The bleary-eyed survivors faced eight more special stages covering 90.19km south of Auckland, ending with a quickfire run of six in Maramarua Forest with no opportunity for service in between.
Sainz, lying fifth overnight, had large time gaps both in front and behind. With no realistic opportunity of catching anyone ahead, the team elected to test some revised settings. “We tried a few experiments this morning with the set-up of our car, trying to learn a few more things,” explained the 40-year-old Madrid driver.
He climbed to fourth following the retirement of Petter Solberg on the penultimate test but Sainz was lucky to escape retirement himself following an incident one stage earlier on the 7.44km Campbell test.
“I missed my braking point on the approach to a fifth gear junction,” he said. “I managed to slow quite a bit, but not enough, and as the car swung round the bend, the rear left hit a large tree. It was quite badly damaged and the suspension took a big hit. I was worried the car would be too damaged to continue but the Focus RS is a strong car and we were able to carry on.
“It was a frustrating rally for us. We had a couple of problems on the first day which cost time and led to a bad road position yesterday but we persevered and I’m happy we brought the car home in the points,” added Sainz.
Team-mates Colin McRae and co-driver Nicky Grist retired on the opening day after sliding off the road and damaging the radiator while Markko Märtin and co-driver Michael Park went out yesterday after rolling.
Ford Rallye Sport team director Malcolm Wilson reflected on an event which left three Focus RS cars battle-scarred. “We have a lot of work to do because all three cars are being used on the Rally of Great Britain in November. Carlos was lucky because the impact was heavy but the Focus RS stood up to it well. Our reliability has again been good here, it is driver error which cost us on this rally,” he said.
News From Our Rivals
Marcus Grönholm ensured a double title celebration for French manufacturer Peugeot. His 3min 47.6sec victory over team-mate Harri Rovanperä ensured a second drivers’ title in three years to add to the manufacturers’ crown which was sealed yesterday. Grönholm was fastest on each of today’s eight stages, taking his tally for the event to 15 from 26 tests. Rovanperä survived a late scare when hydraulic problems cost him 90sec on the last two stages. Petter Solberg (Subaru) should have capitalised by moving into second but that was cruelly snatched away when an engine problem sidelined him on the penultimate stage. Team-mate Tommi Mäkinen benefited from Solberg’s demise to take third. Behind Sainz, Juha Kankkunen and Freddy Loix (both Hyundai) took the final points.
The championship remains in the same part of the world when Perth hosts the penultimate round of the series, Rally Australia, on 31 October - 3 November.
|1. M Grönholm/T Rautiainen||FIN||Peugeot 206||3hr 58min 45.4sec|
|2. H Rovanperä/V Silander||FIN||Peugeot 206||4hr 02min 33.0sec|
|3. T Mäkinen/K Lindström||FIN||Subaru Impreza||4hr 03min 11.7sec|
|4. C Sainz/L Moya||E||Ford Focus RS||4hr 04min 34.3sec|
|5. J Kankkunen/J Repo||FIN||Hyundai Accent||4hr 05min 55.6sec|
|6. F Loix/S Smeets||B||Hyundai Accent||4hr 06min 37.9sec|
|7. G Panizzi/H Panizzi||F||Peugeot 206||4hr 07min 09.8sec|
|8. T Gardemeister/P Lukander||FIN||Skoda Octavia||4hr 07min 41.5sec|
|9. F Delecour/D Grataloup||F||Mitsubishi Lancer||4hr 09min 29.0sec|
|10 A Schwarz/M Hiemer||D||Hyundai Accent||4hr 10min 20.2sec|
FIA World Rally Championship (after round 12 of 14) Drivers
|1. M Grönholm||67pts|
|2. R Burns||34pts|
|3. C McRae||33pts|
|4. G Panizzi||31pts|
|5. C Sainz||29pts|
|6. H Rovanperä||24pts|
|10 M Märtin||12pts|