A ferocious thunderstorm last night left parts of Perth’s Langley Park special stage, scene of the opening action in this penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship a couple of hours earlier, under water. However, the skies had partially cleared this morning when the 69 starters headed south for the opening leg.
Drivers initially faced three gravel speed tests, which were wet and muddy after last night’s rain and Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya made the best start of the Ford Rallye Sport drivers. Fifth fastest on both the 6.97km Harvey Weir and the 15.89km Stirling West stages, the Spaniards were second through the 20.44km Murray River to hold fourth in their Focus RS World Rally Car as cars reached the Dwellingup service park. “We’ve made a good start,” said Sainz. “The roads were slippery in places but are drying out. The further down the running order you are, the drier and cleaner the roads and that obviously helps the later cars.”
Ford Rallye Sport team-mates Colin McRae and Derek Ringer lie eighth despite losing a handful of seconds in Stirling West after overshooting a junction. “About 10km after the start we came into a corner too quickly and had a half spin,” said McRae. “The roads have been quite inconsistent, muddy in places but drier in others.” The new driver / co-driver partnership has settled well, Ringer admitting he felt nervous before last night’s Langley Park test but those nerves had disappeared this morning.
Francois Duval and Jean-Marc Fortin hold ninth in another Focus RS, the Belgian pair having to tackle the incredibly slippery Murray River with a cracked windscreen.
Markko Martin and Michael Park lie 10th despite an uncomfortable incident in Stirling West. Their Focus RS landed heavily over a jump which Park was not expecting and the impact winded him, caused whiplash to his neck and he bit through his tongue. Park was unable to read his pace notes for several hundred metres before recovering his breath and guiding Märtin safely to the end. “I didn’t expect rain and mud in Australia,” said Märtin. “It’s just like motocross!”
Leaderboard After Stage 4
|1. M Grönholm/T Rautiainen||FIN||Peugeot 206||27min 05.8sec|
|2. P Solberg/P Mills||N||Subaru Impreza||27min 14.7sec|
|3. R Burns/R Reid||GB||Peugeot 206||27min 15.0sec|
|4. C Sainz/L Moya||E||Ford Focus RS||27min 17.1sec|
|5. H Rovanperä/R Pietilainen||FIN||Peugeot 206||27min 22.0sec|
|6. F Loix/S Smeets||B||Hyundai Accent||27min 31.0sec|
|7. T Mäkinen/K Lindström||FIN||Subaru Impreza||27min 33.4sec|
|8. C McRae/D Ringer||GB||Ford Focus RS||27min 33.7sec|
|9. F Duval/J-M Fortin||B||Ford Focus RS||27min 41.3sec|
|10 M Märtin/M Park||EE||Ford Focus RS||27min 51.3sec|
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