WRC » 5 October 2003
Loeb takes gold on the 'Italian Job'.
"We were lucky to stay on the road in those conditions," reckoned Martin, "Marcus went off, but I think it could have been anybody. It was so difficult to drive. This is a shame to end the rally this way. Okay we have had the odd problem, but we had been in second place for so long. Having said that, I am happy with third position, having shown what the Ford Focus is capable of on asphalt roads."
Duval commented: "I worked quite hard on getting my pace notes right just before the start of this rally and it's gone very well. This has been a good event for me, especially when you consider that this is my first attempt at it in a World Rally Car. The last couple of stages were incredible. We bent the steering after cutting a corner about five kilometres into the stage. At that point I decided it wasn't worth risking things, so we backed off a little."
At Subaru Tommi Makinen's Impreza WRC2003 ran without mechanical trouble throughout the final leg of the event, while Petter Solberg retired the sister car after the final stage on Friday.
Makinen started the day in 11th place, but moved into the top ten when Gronholm retired on the last stage. The four-times world champion's run through the final leg was without incident, the Finn using the time to test different tyres with an eye to the next two asphalt rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship.
"This morning was okay, no problems – but the last two stages were very different," said the Finn, "There was so much water it was very treacherous. Stage 13 was completely white with hail stones. Okay we have made the top ten at the end of the rally, but we prefer to be at the top of the top ten rather than the bottom. We found it hard to get the right set-up here and that's something we've got to work towards for the next rallies in Corsica and Catalunya."
Team boss, David Lapworth added: "It's going to be hard work to find an answer to the pace that Markko and Sebastien have been running at this weekend, but I think a podium position is attainable on the next two asphalt rallies. A lot will depend on the weather conditions."
Didier Auriol's Skoda Fabia WRC ran without mechanical problems through the final leg of the rally. Toni Gardemeister retired from the rally when he rolled off the road on the second stage.
Auriol had made some changes to the suspension set-up of his Skoda last night and felt it was a retrograde step after the first loop of stages this morning. The team changed the Fabia back to how it had been prior to stages 11 and 12 – only for the rain to come and the Frenchman to run on the wrong tyres. He finished the event in 12th place.
"This morning the car was too bad, it wasn't right at all. We had made the car too hard for the stages, which cost us some time," said Auriol, "Also we had quite a bad vibration from in those first two stages this morning. Another problem we had came when I stalled the car on the start-line of stage 12. This afternoon, the rain was incredible – really not good at all to drive in."
Of the other entries Mirco Baldacci maintained his grip on the lead of the FIA Junior World Rally Championship field until the end of the event. The Fiat driver didn't put a foot wrong through the final loop to beat second-placed man Salvador Canellas [Suzuki Ignis] by more than five minutes.
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