WRC » 27 July 2003
Loeb takes Rallye Deutschland victory.
Ford Rallye Sport's Markko Martin's Focus RS WRC03 suffered problems with its transmission on this third and final leg of the event. The sister car of Francois Duval ran without fault, as did the 2002 specification Focus of Mikko Hirvonen.
Martin started the day in third place and on the crest of a wave after moving up from tenth through leg two. His efforts to close on the lead duo hit trouble mid-way through the second stage of the day, when a shaft snapped between the front and centre differentials, leaving the Estonian with only two-wheel-drive for the remainder of that stage and all of the 19 kilometres of St Wendeler Land. He dropped back to fifth, but pulled some time back with fastest time on each of the three remaining stages in the event. Martin's co-driver Michael Park was struggling with sickness throughout the final day as well.
Duval lost out in his titanic battle with Sainz, finishing the event seventh, 9.5s behind. A stall on the start-line of the final test hadn't helped the Belgian's cause. Hirvonen's drama-free rally continued through the final leg of the event, with the young Finn finishing the event in 13th place.
''I'm encouraged by the pace we've shown on the stages, but at the same time frustrated by the problems we have had,'' said Martin. ''When everything was going right for us, we were untouchable on this rally, setting ten fastest times out of 22 shows that. The problem with the transmission this morning just happened, there was no warning or anything like that. One minute we had four-wheel-drive, the next it was only two.''
Duval commented: ''This has been a bit of a mixed weekend for us. We've set some good times and made some good tyre choices, but also there has been the odd mistake. I'm happy to have scored some points for the team, but at the same time it is disappointing to lose out to Carlos on the final stage.''
Hirvonen noted: ''Driving the stages in the wet was harder than I thought it would be, but I have learned a lot from this event. The car was perfect for the whole rally - I'm even happier that I have finished the event without a mark on the car.''
Petter Solberg's Subaru Impreza WRC2003 ran without fault through the final leg, while Tommi Makinen retired with an electrical fault on the opening leg.
Solberg returned to full fitness for the final leg of the event. He enjoyed the wet conditions throughout the final leg, moving past Peugeot pair Gilles Panizzi and Cedric Robert by setting top five times on five of the day's six stages.
Solberg said: ''I am a little disappointed with this rally. I think the times we have set on the dry asphalt have shown that we still have some work to do, but then again when it was dry I was really struggling with my fitness. Today I felt so much better than on the two days before, I was really struggling on those stages. I think people noticed that I wasn't my usual self.''
At Hyundai Armin Schwarz's Accent WRC had transmission problems early on in leg three. Freddy Loix and Manfred Stohl's cars meanwhile ran without problems.
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