Focus gives Laukkanen breakthrough point
Tapio Laukkanen and Kaj Lindström scored their first ever FIA World Rally
Championship point on the Rally Australia today.
Driving a Ford Focus World
Rally Car in competition for only the second time, the Finns ended the
demanding four-day event, penultimate round of the series, in sixth after a
thrilling final leg in the West Australian forests south of Perth.
The final day was based entirely in the Sotico, formerly known as Bunnings,
forest complex, where large crowds gathered to watch the action over four
speed tests, covering 100km. Dusty gravel tracks and air temperatures
touching 30*C made driving conditions difficult but Laukkanen quickly set
about improving his overnight seventh position.
After the opening 35.29km special stage he had closed right down on fellow
countryman Toni Gardemeister and duly moved ahead on the next 36.84km test.
His sights now set on fifth, the 31-year-old Andorra-based driver closed in
on Kenneth Eriksson but a spin on the penultimate stage ended the chase and
he settled for sixth.
"I'm delighted to finish in the points but at the same time a little
disappointed not to have caught Kenneth," said Laukkanen. "It was a tough
event for me but the more kilometres I complete in the Focus, the more
confident I feel with the car.
"Now I'm looking forward to the Rally of Great Britain later this month.
I've gathered plenty of experience of the forests there and I feel confident
I can at least match this performance," said the 1999 British champion.
News from our Rivals
Once again road position dominated today's final leg with the top three
drivers seeking to avoid having to run first on the road over the loose
gravel covering the last four stages. Late last night it emerged that
leader Tommi Mäkinen was penalised 10 seconds for a jump start on
yesterday's penultimate stage, dropping him from first to third overall and
also third on the road behind Marcus Grönholm and Richard Burns. Then, just
before the start of today's opening stage, Burns caused a stir by changing a
puncture and in the time it took to fit a new tyre, he dropped behind
Mäkinen in the starting order.
Once the action did begin, a thrilling battle developed between the leading
trio. Mäkinen, eight seconds faster than anyone else on the first test,
moved back into a lead he was not to lose. Less than a second covered
Grönholm and Burns all day until the Finn secured second on the final stage
to open a seven point championship lead over the Briton. Kenneth Eriksson
(Hyundai) equaled his team's best result to date with fifth. Gilles Panizzi
(Peugeot) retired after the final stage with a broken gearbox but today's
results mean the French manufacturer is guaranteed at least one of the two
The final round of the FIA World Rally Championship is the Rally of Great
Britain, which this year is based entirely in Wales for the first time. It is based in Cardiff from 23 - 26 November.