16 October 2004
Martin strikes back, Ford dominant.
Ford team leader Markko Martin struck back today [Saturday] on the Rallye de France-Tour de Corse, winning the opening stage to re-take the lead of the event, and demote team-mate, Francois Duval to second.
Martin held onto that lead through the remaining three tests, and although Duval was quickest in SS7, to reduce the Estonian's lead, Martin was having none of it, and went fastest again in the final test of the day, to increase his lead again. He ends the second leg with a 20.8 second advantage.
"It's been a difficult, but good, day," said Martin. "We've had every type of weather you can imagine in the mountains. One moment it's nice and the next it's raining. It changed all the time and it worried me all day.
"I have a good set-up on my car. It's not perfect, it never is in Corsica, but it's worked superbly for me. If we don't make any big mistakes with our tyre selection, then I don't think the other teams can catch us."
Overall Ford dominated, as they did yesterday, one-two in all the stages, bar the final one, where Sebastien Loeb split the two Ford Focus'.
Their form will have pleased team boss, Malcolm Wilson, especially as the future of the outfit in the WRC has still to be confirmed.
It wasn't all plain sailing though for the M-Sport ran squad, Martin's car caught fire after completing the final stage, and the Estonian was forced to stop to extinguish the flames before proceeding to final service!
"To see flames coming out from under the bonnet was not a nice feeling," added Martin. "We put the fire out at the finish, but we were lucky that we were able to drive straight to service because the power steering stopped working on the liaison section."
Sebastien Loeb remains third in his Citroen Xsara WRC, and still on course for the title, the Frenchman had an uneventful day, and although quick, could do nothing to stop the Ford's. It appears he has now settled for third, and the final spot on the podium, as he is 40 seconds behind Duval in second, and a minute ahead of Carlos Sainz in fourth.
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