WRC » 08 February 2004
Loeb breaks Nordic domination.
The fight for fourth was tight this morning during the opening three tests, however in the end Tuohino came out on top, after Sainz experienced mechanical woes in the final two tests, letting the Finn canter home as Ford's second nominated driver.
"A happy ending to the weekend would have been for Carlos to finish behind me and that's what happened," stated Tuohino. "This morning I made my tyre choice based on the middle stage, which was the longest and most important of the three. Snow tyres were the right choice and we were fastest. I'm really happy with the result and delighted with two fastest times, but still a little unhappy to have dropped time at the end of the second day, otherwise I may have finished third. I came here to enjoy myself on my first rally for Ford and I've done that."
Sainz however was disappointed he couldn't fight to the death.
"I had noticed the engine temperature shoot up and then go down again on the first stage this afternoon, but then on the next one [SS18] it dropped onto three cylinders," explained the Spaniard, "I don't know exactly what caused the problem, maybe a head gasket or something related. It's a real disappointment, but at the same time I've gained a lot of confidence from this rally."
Privateer Daniel Carlsson, scored the final drivers' point in eighth, while early leader, Markko Martin eventually came home seventh - the Estonian is still mad at himself though after throwing away yesterday what was practically a dead cert win.
"One mistake yesterday cost us a lot," commented Martin, "It has been a strange rally as everyone seems to have made mistakes but we paid a high price for ours. On Friday we did everything we could to take the lead, but in the end it just didn't happen for us. I'm disappointed for myself and for the team. It will take a while to get over this. It hurts a lot and I still can't believe it happened.
"Let's see how many days it takes before I sleep properly again. Sweden has a lot of surprises for me. I can drive fast here but I can't put it altogether. People say drivers shouldn't lean on the snow banks but you have to here, it's part of the job. We were just unlucky that there was a rock there."
Of the other manufacturer entries, Mikko Hirvonenn came home ninth, while Francois Duval - not nominated by Ford for points on this event - was running 45th at the end of stage 19, only to be withdrawn by the team at the final service park. His mission was simply to gain experience of all the stages, and with that accomplished nothing was to be gained by being included in the overall classification.
"We have done all the stages, which has given me more experience, and made improvements to our notes and that's good for next year," explained Duval. "I wasn't nominated for points so that took the pressure off me. My result wasn't really important but I would have preferred to have spent less time pushing and digging my way out of the snow!"
Overall then 49 competitors crossed the final line in Karlstad, 70 having started on Friday. The most noticeable retirements were Gilles Panizzi, Kristian Sohlberg, and Peugeot's Freddy Loix - gearbox woes accounting for the Mitsubishi duo, while engine problems sidelined Loix.
"It wasn't an easy rally for me," reflected Loix. "The engine started misfiring on the second day, then 14 kilometres into SS12 it stopped completely. The most positive thing is that I've done more kilometres in the 307 WRC, so hopefully we can use that experience to improve our performance."
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