Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya posted their first fastest time of this 13th round of the FIA World Rally Championship as their battle with Finland’s Harri Rovanperä continued over the gravel tracks east of Perth. Their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car was joint fastest, ironically with Rovanperä, on the second run at the 6.81km Muresk test.
Sainz was fourth on the other three speed tests in the group to return to the Chidlow service park in fourth, 14.7sec behind the Finn. “We’ll have a hard job on our hands to catch Harri,” he said. “He’s taking a little time from us at the moment. I’m pushing hard but Tommi Mäkinen is close behind us so we must also keep an eye out for him.”
The impressive second leg performance of Colin McRae and Derek Ringer ended in disappointment at the end of the first run through Muresk. The Scots set fastest time in the 5.30km York Railway but their Focus RS landed heavily over the last of the famous jumps in the next stage. Although they finished the test third fastest, the landing pushed the car’s radiator back into the engine and they retired.
“We were 600 metres from the end when we landed heavily over the final jump,” said McRae. “The car came down on its nose and the force of the landing broke the radiator, causing all the water to pour out. It’s disappointing because the times were good and it was all starting to work really well with Derek. Our confidence was increasing and it would have been good to finish and build that confidence further.”
McRae’s retirement from sixth enabled Ford Rallye Sport team-mates Markko Märtin and Michael Park to claim that position and move into the points. However, they are coming under increasing pressure from the other Focus RS of Francois Duval and Jean-Marc Fortin. Just 2.6sec separate the duelling colleagues.
Both Märtin and Duval felt lucky to escape the jump that claimed McRae. “It was impossible to take it without feeling as if you would damage something on landing,” said Märtin. The Ford Rallye Sport team replaced the cross brace behind the radiator grill and the sump guard on his car, both damaged by the heavy landing.
Leaderboard After Stage 16
|1. M Grönholm/T Rautiainen||FIN||Peugeot 206||2hr 09min 33.8sec|
|2. P Solberg/P Mills||N||Subaru Impreza||2hr 10min 12.0sec|
|3. H Rovanperä/R Pietilainen||FIN||Peugeot 206||2hr 10min 28.3sec|
|4. C Sainz/L Moya||E||Ford Focus RS||2hr 10min 43.0sec|
|5. T Mäkinen/K Lindström||FIN||Subaru Impreza||2hr 11min 08.5sec|
|6. M Märtin/M Park||EE||Ford Focus RS||2hr 12min 51.0sec|
|7. F Duval/J-M Fortin||B||Ford Focus RS||2hr 12min 53.6sec|
|8. T Gardemeister/P Lukander||FIN||Skoda Octavia||2hr 13min 41.5sec|
|9. S Loeb/D Elena||F||Citroen Xsara||2hr 14min 31.8sec|
|10 J Kankkunen/J Repo||FIN||Hyundai Accent||2hr 15min 18.3sec|
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