Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya and team-mates Markko Märtin and Michael Park both claimed points-scoring results for Ford Rallye Sport on the Rally Australia which ended in Perth this afternoon. Sainz’s Ford Focus RS World Rally Car finished fourth on this 13th and penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship with Märtin driving a similar car into fifth.
The result ensured the ever-dependable Focus RS has scored points on every round of this year’s championship to date and the team heads to Britain later this month aiming for a clean sweep. No other team in the series can boast such a record.
After three days of gloomy weather, clear blue skies and warm sunshine greeted competitors as they headed south to the SOTICO pine plantation for the final four speed tests, covering 105.69km. Huge crowds flocked onto the hillsides to watch the famous Bunnings jumps and watersplash, one of the highlights of the rally season.
Madrid-based Sainz, fourth overnight, was second quickest on the opening special stage but then rolled on the next. “About 600 metres after the start, at a very slow first gear junction, the car hit a rock in a rut and just turned over,” he said. “It landed back on its wheels and we only lost five or 10 seconds. But the turbo pipe was ripped off in the accident and we had to drive the rest of the stage with no boost which is why we lost more time.”
The incident cost a minute and demoted Sainz to fifth, but he regained fourth following the post-rally exclusion of Tommi Mäkinen. “It was a big shame about the crash but these things happen and I did the maximum I could. When the roads are tight and twisty there are no problems but it’s been on the faster sections where we’ve lost time to Grönholm and Rovanperä.”
Märtin started the day in seventh but climbed to fifth following the retirement of Ford Rallye Sport team-mates Francois Duval and Jean-Marc Fortin on the penultimate stage and Makinen’s exclusion. The 26-year-old Estonian driver, whose previous appearance on this rally lasted only one stage, was delighted to see the finish podium in Perth to record his seventh points finish in the last eight rounds.
“It’s a nice rally but if you can’t find the rhythm and the pace notes aren’t quite right then it’s a difficult event and that’s the problem I’ve had for three days,” he said. “To score points is a bonus because simply to finish was the target. I’ve struggled a little with the pace but we had no option but to drive safely and pick up experience.”
Duval and Fortin, whose steady and sure display impressed many, were on course for their best world championship finish in sixth when a tightening right bend caught out the Belgian duo 4km after the start of the penultimate stage. Their Focus RS hit a tree and the heavy impact damaged Duval’s leg. He was airlifted out of the stage and medical checks revealed the 21-year-old suffered a badly bruised left thigh.
“The accident happened at a very difficult part of the stage where the trees were very close to the edge of the road,” explained Fortin. “We slid off the clean part of the road onto the loose gravel and slid into a tree. Francois’ door took the full impact. We tried to carry on but after another 1.5km the pain in Francois’ leg was too bad and we stopped.”
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