Ford Rallye Sport drivers Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya maintained a strong pace in their Focus RS World Rally Car to maintain fourth position as the rally emerged from the longest speed test of the four-day event, the 38.93km Stirling East Reverse.

The Spanish pair were fourth quickest over the clay roads of the fast and flowing 16.63km Brunswick before setting second fastest time through the long stage alongside Stirling Dam.

“The car has felt better and better as the day has gone on and I’m feeling very confident now,” said the 40-year-old Madrid-based driver. “We changed the set-up of the dampers at the last service and that’s given me more feeling. Conditions are quite good although some corners are still muddy but I think the damp roads help us. It will be more difficult when the roads dry completely.”

Team-mates Colin McRae and Derek Ringer are the second of four Ford Rallye Sport cars on the top 10 leaderboard, the Scots holding seventh in their Focus RS. “We have no problems but it’s just not really flowing properly at the moment,” said McRae. “I’m not 100 per cent confident yet, I think it’s just a case of Derek and I taking a little time to get used to each other again.”

Markko Märtin and Michael Park are increasing their pace on only their second visit to Australia. The 26-year-old Estonian driver was sixth fastest through Stirling East to climb to eighth in his Focus RS, despite stalling in the stage. “We stopped at a hairpin and it took about five seconds for the engine to fire up again,” said Märtin. “As always in those situations, five seconds seems like a lifetime.”

Belgians Francois Duval and Jean-Marc Fortin lie ninth. Duval, like Märtin, said he struggled for grip in the long Stirling East stage and thought harder compound Pirelli rubber would have been a better option. “We’re out here to learn and to finish so we’re not pushing as hard as we could,” added Duval.

Leaderboard After Stage 6

1. M Grönholm/T Rautiainen FIN Peugeot 206 58min 59.4sec
2. R Burns/R Reid GB Peugeot 206 59min 20.0sec
3. P Solberg/P Mills N Subaru Impreza 59min 21.7sec
4. C Sainz/L Moya E Ford Focus RS 59min 22.6sec
5. H Rovanperä/R Pietilainen FIN Peugeot 206 59min 40.6sec
6. T Mäkinen/K Lindström FIN Subaru Impreza 59min 42.9sec
7. C McRae/D Ringer GB Ford Focus RS 1hr 00min 04.8sec
8. M Märtin/M Park EE Ford Focus RS 1hr 00min 19.5sec
9. F Duval/J-M Fortin B Ford Focus RS 1hr 00min 22.3sec
10 J Kankkunen/J Repo FIN Hyundai Accent 1hr 00min 39.9sec

Published : 01/11/02 Author : Melanie Carter

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