Ford BP Rallye Sport drivers Markko Martin and Michael Park were excluded from the Rally Australia early this morning by the event's stewards.

Their decision related to a rock carried inside Martin's Ford Focus RS World Rally Car yesterday which did not comply with the sport's regulations regarding ballast, which must be fixed and placed on the floor of the cockpit.

The incident happened during Saturday afternoon's special stages on this tenth round of the FIA World Rally Championship. The rock, estimated by rally scrutineers to weigh between 5-6kg, was located in the spare wheel well at the rear of the car.

The Focus RS was weighed before entering the final service park of the day at Jarrahdale and found to be 1253kg. The minimum limit is 1230kg.

The rock was placed in the car by Martin and Park when they stopped to change tyres during a group of four special stages. The ratchet mechanism holding the spare wheel in place at the back of the car failed and could not be fixed. The crew wedged the rock into the spare wheel well to hold the spare wheel in place and enable them to continue the rally, in which they were lying fourth.

The scrutineers identified the rock when the Focus RS arrived at the Ford BP team's service area and an official report was lodged. Following the stewards' findings, the team accepted the exclusion and did not appeal.

"Obviously I'm extremely disappointed for Markko, Michael and the whole team," said Ford BP team director Malcolm Wilson. "It's a blow to our world championship hopes but a decision that we have accepted without appeal. Markko and Michael acted on the spur of the moment in an effort to retain the spare wheel which was not properly secured. It's an unfortunate situation but we must all move forward and concentrate on the next round of the championship in Italy next month."