Double podium for Ford on Monte Carlo Rally

Ford claimed two of the three podium places on the world famous Monte Carlo Rally, opening round of the FIA World Rally Championship, which finished in Monaco this afternoon. Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya drove their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car to second and François Delecour and Daniel Grataloup finished third.

It was a superb debut for the revised Focus rally car amid constantly changing conditions which ensured the event lived up to its label as the most unpredictable in the 14-rally calendar. Drivers faced snow, ice and even dry asphalt, often within a few kilometres of each other, during the four-day, 1766km rally which ensured tyre selection was a difficult task.

Ford drivers posted fastest time on half of the 14 speed tests. Delecour was quickest on three, Sainz on two and Ford Martini team-mates Colin McRae and Nicky Grist also fastest on two. Sadly, long-time rally leader McRae retired on the opening stage of today's third and final leg.

It was Sainz's ninth podium finish on this rally, the 38-year-old Madrid driver finishing with fastest time on the final stage. "Considering the awkward conditions, it was a good start to the season. Six points is a good reward for our efforts, although it's a pity for Colin. When we started this morning I was conscious that I couldn't catch Tommi or Colin and it needed either a mistake or problem for me to move up," he said.

Delecour, winner here for Ford in 1994, made an impressive start to his second spell with the team. "This rally is so dependent on the weather and the changing conditions made it difficult," he said. "It's easy to make mistakes when you experience dry asphalt, ice and snow on the same stage. In driving a Focus for the first time I had a lot to get used to. I quickly developed a good feeling with the car but I still have more to learn."

McRae's hopes of scoring the first British victory on the Monte Carlo Rally since 1968 ended in disappointment early this morning. The Ford Martini pair, overnight leaders by 3.5sec, hit problems on the famous Col de Turini stage, high in the mountains above Monte Carlo, and were forced to retire after the 32.72km test.

The electric motor on the fly-by-wire throttle system of McRae's Focus RS World Rally Car failed early in the stage, just before the col where thousands of spectators were gathered to watch the action. McRae stopped and disconnected the throttle linkage system himself to convert the fly-by-wire to the mechanical back-up.

However, the 32-year-old Scot was unable to remove the linkage totally and, although he was able to complete the stage having dropped 13 minutes, part of the linkage was fouling on the engine, causing the throttle to jam. Although he tried to disconnect the remaining piece after the stage he was unable to do so in the time allowed and retired.

"The problem happened about 2km from the top of the Col de Turini," said McRae. "We made it up to the summit but the motor seized completely at the top and we had to stop. We managed to switch to the back-up system to finish the stage but there's no way we could have started the next test with the throttle jamming. It's obviously very disappointing because we had every chance of winning this one."

Ford Martini team director Malcolm Wilson said two podium places marked a 'very satisfactory' start to the year considering the revisions to the Focus. "All three drivers posted fastest times and I think the car is right at the head of the field in terms of performance," he said. "It's disappointing for Colin to retire from the lead but we've been greatly encouraged by the display of all three Focus cars. The electric motor which brought about Colin's retirement was a relatively low technology part. It's been used extensively in Champ Car racing in the United States and has been tested for more than 3,000km on the rally car. It was a rare and unexpected failure."

News from our Rivals

Tommi Mäkinen's (Mitsubishi) victory completed only the third hat-trick in the history of the Monte Carlo Rally, and the first since Walter Röhrl in 1982 - 1984. Armin Schwarz (Skoda) matched his team's best world championship result in fourth while fifth for private-entrant Toni Gardemeister was a notable achievement. Freddy Loix (Mitsubishi) took the final drivers' point after a puncture on today's opening stage cost Alister McRae (Hyundai) four minutes when he had to stop and change it.

Next round

More snow and ice lies in wait for drivers as the FIA World Championship moves to Scandinavia for the Swedish Rally on 9 - 11 February. It is based in Karlstad.

Final positions


T Mäkinen/R Mannisenmaki FIN Mitsubishi Lancer 4hr 38min 04.3sec


C Sainz/L Moya E Ford Focus 4hr 39min 05.1sec


F Delecour/D Grataloup F Ford Focus 4hr 40min 09.6sec


A Schwarz/M Hiemer D Skoda Octavia 4hr 40min 30.3sec


T Gardemeister/P Lukander FIN Peugeot 206 4hr 43min 56.4sec


F Loix/S Smeets F Peugeot 206 3hr 44min 50.4sec


M Martin/M Park B Mitsubishi Carisma 4hr 44min 30.2sec


B Thiry/S Prévot B Skoda Octavia 4hr 51min 59.3sec


O Gillet/F Delorme CH Mitsubishi Lancer 4hr 54min 28.2sec


M Stohl/P Muller A Mitsubishi Lancer 4hr 55min 54.6sec

2000 FIA World Rally Championship (final standings)

1. T Mäkinen 10pts 1. Mitsubishi 13pts
2. C Sainz 6pts 2. Ford 6pts
3. F Delecour 4pts 3. Skoda 5pts
4. A Schwarz 3pts 4. Hyundai 2pts
5. T Gardemeister 2pts - -
6. F Loix 1pt - -


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