Estonian Markko Martin scored his first win in the FIA World Rally Championship in Greece today. The Ford Focus RS WRC 03 driver was untroubled through the final leg of the Acropolis Rally, which took crews south of the event's Lamia base for two loops of three stages.
Martin and co-driver Michael Park had led the rally from the second stage on Friday. This was also Ford's first win with the new car which was introduced to the championship in April.
Citroen's Carlos Sainz took second place after a fight to the finish with Petter Solberg. Solberg moved ahead of Sainz with two stages to go, only to get stuck behind an ailing Colin McRae on the penultimate test.
The Subaru driver entered the final stage 9.4 seconds adrift of Sainz. Solberg set his fourth fastest time from the six stages run today, but he missed out on second by 6.7 seconds.
Fourth place was enough for Richard Burns to extend his lead in the driver's championship, while Citroen's success trims Peugeot's lead in the manufacturer's standings to 11 points.
At Ford Markko Martin's car broke a rear anti-roll bar on the opening loop of stages this morning, other than that it ran ok. His team-mate, Francois Duval and Mikko Hirvonen went out on the opening day, the former sliding off the road on SS5, while the latter went out when he lost a wheel.
Martin controlled the rally from the front through the final leg, arriving back in Lamia with a 46-second gap over second-placed Sainz. The anti-roll bar problem - on the second stage today - affected the car's handling slightly, but otherwise it was a clean run for Martin.
''This is a big result for everybody in the team,'' said Martin, ''The only time I thought maybe we weren't going to win this event, was when the bonnet flew up on the first day. Then I thought: 'Oh no. Here we go again, the longest stage of the rally and another strange problem for us.' But we managed to minimise the time loss and here we are, winners at the finish.''
Co-driver Michael Park added: ''I've dreamt of this day for a lot of years and there are a lot of people who I'll be thanking at home in Britain for getting me to this stage. Markko has driven a great rally, showing he can even do it when he can't really see where he's going!''