Only 36 cars left a sunny Sanremo this morning for the short final leg of this 11th round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Just two loops of two speed tests, both used earlier in the rally but in the opposite direction, lie in wait before the finish back in the Italian Riviera resort this afternoon.
Ford Rallye Sport drivers Markko Märtin and Michael Park maintained their overnight fifth position in their Focus RS World Rally Car after the first loop, comprising the climb of the Colle d’Oggia in the 25.03km Pantasina and then the 18.98km Mendatica. The 26-year-old Estonian driver was fifth fastest through Pantasina and fourth in the next.
“We’ve not had any real problems this morning,” said Märtin. “We lost a little bit of grip in the second half of Pantasina but the tyres were fine again for the next stage. The car feels great but I don’t think there’s enough distance left for us to catch anyone.”
Team-mates Colin McRae and Nicky Grist remain eighth, and in the manufacturers’ points, in their Focus RS. The British pair are under no pressure from behind and with no chance of catching anyone ahead unless their rivals encounter problems. A crack appeared down the middle of McRae’s windscreen in the opening stage but his visibility is not seriously impaired and there are no plans to fit a replacement.
“There’s nothing much we can do apart from ensure we reach the finish,” said McRae. “I could gain a few seconds but nothing that’s going to make a difference to our position. It’s much easier to try to regain time on gravel than it is on asphalt. Conditions are dry with just the odd slippery patch so tyre choice is straight forward.”Published 22 September 2002