WRC » 22 September 2002
Sanremo hat-trick for Panizzi.
Petter Solberg said: ''I'm really, really happy. The first thing is that we've had a clean, reliable run with no problems from the car whatsoever. The second thing is that we've found some improvements in the set-up, just by making small changes as the rally went on, and we gained some more speed because of that. And finally, I'm really glad to have been able to push, get involved in a fight with Richard and still come out with a podium finish. We can take some of what we've learned here to New Zealand and I can't wait for that rally now. This is a really important result for me.''
Solberg's team-mate's Tommi Makinen and Achim Mortl went out on Friday and Saturday. Makinen was the first to go with a broken front left drive-shaft, well Mortl crashed out in SS10 and retired after it.
Over at Ford the Focus RS WRC02s of Markko Martin and Colin McRae have run reasonably well. Martin knew that he'd have to push hard this morning if he was to make any impact on fourth-placed Richard Burns, but when the Englishman eked out a few more seconds in the opening stages, the young Estonian elected to aim for a finish, two drivers' points for himself and three crucial points for Ford in the manufacturers' series.
Colin McRae, meanwhile, had little to gain today, since he started this morning more than a minute and a half behind seventh-placed Cedric Robert. As a result, the Scot backed off and cruised towards the Sanremo finish in eighth, scoring two manufacturers' points for Ford but ceding a further six to Grönholm in the race for the drivers' championship.
Markko Martin commented: ''I'm quite pleased and maybe a little surprised with how well it's all gone here. We clearly found a good set-up for the car and we've had no real problems either. I had hoped to fight Petter because we were on the same pace as him in the early stages but he found more speed and we couldn't match him.''
Team-mate Colin McRae added: ''We didn't really have anything to gain by taking big risks today so we just had a steady run. The car's clearly better on asphalt, as we've seen from Markko's times, but the gap is still there to the Peugeots. We can just concentrate on trying to win the last three rallies now, because the championship chances are practically gone.''
The other works Focus driven by Carlos Sainz retired on Friday, a engine oil leak ending his Sanremo Rally after only three stages.
At Mitsubishi François Delecour adopted a cautious strategy this morning, as the Frenchman aimed for a top-10 finish and a valuable manufacturers' point for Mitsubishi. He duly secured this, finishing 10th overall to lift the Japanese manufacturer above Skoda in the makes' series.
Delecour said: ''We had to make sure we reached the finish today, because there was the chance of a point for Mitsubishi and maybe we didn't expect to get that on this rally. I'm really happy that we have moved above Skoda now, but at the same time it was frustrating to lose so much time with the turbo problems that we had, because if we hadn't had that then I know we could have been fighting two or three places higher up the field.''
His team-mate Alister McRae, was withdrawn from the event on medical grounds on Friday night. The Scot crashed while mountain biking last week and he was clearly exhausted by the end of Friday's action. With little to gain after his self-induced smashed windscreen, McRae flew home Saturday morning to enjoy a couple of extra days' recuperation before he flies on to Rally New Zealand.
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