Ford driver Markko Martin drove a perfect rally today [Sunday] to take victory just ahead of young team-mate Francois Duval in second, the pair recording Ford's first one-two finish since the Cyprus Rally in 2000.
Martin was delighted with the result, and the Estonian is now joint first in the drivers' championship, both he and Sebastien Loeb
tied on 20 points.
This result also means that Ford lead the constructors' championship, 40 points to Citroen's 30.
"It's been a tremendous weekend for us and Ford," noted Martin, "We've all worked hard as a team and we deserve this result. To lead the manufacturers' championship by such a margin is fantastic. We've had a few small problems but we've always kept on top of them. It has been a difficult event and hard for the cars but that makes victory all the better. My only mistake was a spin on the first day. Apart from that we've stayed to our plan and kept out of trouble. There was no point in trying to drive too quickly. Too many others did that and hit problems. It was necessary to be patient."
"Ford's last 1-2 was in Cyprus in 2000 and, like Mexico, that was achieved on a rally appearing in the championship for the first time," added team boss, Malcolm Wilson, "It's very special to achieve a 1-2 in the modern era of the sport and even more fitting that we should gain this result on M-Sport's 100th rally with Ford. It was a far more difficult event than we predicted but the reliability of the Focus has shone through again. Both Markko and Francois drove superbly. Our target for 2004 was for Markko to win the drivers' championship but the way that Francois is developing as a driver has put us in a strong position in the manufacturers' series."
Duval ended the event 42.5 seconds behind Martin, and was more than pleased with second, his best result to date on a WRC event.
"It's the first time I have finished second on a world rally and I'm so happy," he commented, "I have had a perfect car for three days, it gave me no worries at all. It's like new and all the team have really had to do is to fit a new bumper. The rally was a new event for everyone and it's not been an easy weekend. We were under no pressure today and would have been happy to have finished third. But when Carlos crashed and we moved into second it completed a great three days. To finish first and second is the kind of result that teams dream of but to do it on a rally which is new to everyone makes it even more special."
Citroen's Carlos Sainz was the only challenger to the Ford duo on the final leg. However, his chances ended midway though the third stage when his brakes failed and the Spaniard rolled. It took more than a minute to push his car back onto its wheels and he had to settle for third.
"Today, we were under a bit of pressure," revealed Sainz, "being the only Xsara left in the race, we absolutely had to finish the rally. However, we tried hard, and we believed we could win, before making a small mistake. Then it was a case of collecting six points, important both for Citroen
and for us. This rally will remain in my memory, both due to the non-sporting events of which everyone is aware, but also because it has been a very well organised FIA WRC round, which I enjoyed getting to know."
Petter Solberg meanwhile recovered superbly from his five-minute penalty at the end of the opening leg to climb back to fourth, moving ahead of Subaru team-mate Mikko Hirvonen
on the penultimate stage.