RALLY : Germany

Ford Rallye Sport maintained its status as the most reliable team in the FIA World Rally Championship by preserving its record of scoring points on every round of this year’s series in the Rallye Deutschland today. Fourth place in Germany for the Focus RS World Rally Car of Colin McRae and Nicky Grist and sixth for the similar car of Markko Märtin and Michael Park marked its 10th consecutive points finish.  
Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya finished eighth in another Focus RS, ensuring Ford was the only manufacturer to bring all its cars to the finish of the demanding three-day event. The result keeps Ford second in the manufacturers’ series, with four rounds to go. McRae and Sainz lie second and fourth respectively in the drivers’ standings. 
It was Germany’s first appearance in the world rally calendar and the unique asphalt speed tests in the Mosel and Saaland regions provided one of the toughest challenges of the season. The retirement rate was high, especially during the second day on the broken concrete of the daunting rain-soaked Baumholder tank training area. 
McRae and Grist cruised through today’s final leg, comprising seven special stages and 102.93km in Saaland, to maintain their overnight fourth. “Once Carlos lost time this morning we were under no pressure,” said the 34-year-old Scot. “We had no chance of catching those ahead so we eased off as there was no point in pushing hard. It’s good to keep the points total ticking over but it was frustrating that we couldn’t match the pace of those ahead of us.  
“This is the first time we’ve been to Germany and it’s been a difficult rally. With the exception of the final day, perhaps, the stages are so different from a traditional asphalt event. And because the character of the roads was so different on every leg, it was hard to find a settled rhythm,” added McRae. 
Märtin had an eventful day. The 26-year-old Estonian was delayed by Armin Kremer’s accident on the opening stage (see below) and managed to squeeze past Harri Rovanperä’s crippled car two stages later before almost hitting a deer. “”We saw it high on a bank above the car. It jumped off and we went underneath it and just avoided it. Half a second later and it would have hit our windscreen,” said Märtin. 
“I’m happy to have finished in the points again. When Carlos had his problem this morning we moved into the manufacturers’ points so Ford didn’t lose out. It shows the value of a three-car team. We kept to our own pace and after a difficult first day, were able to move up well yesterday. The Focus has been reliable all weekend,” added Märtin, who maintained his 100% finishing record this season. 
Sainz re-started in fifth this morning but on the startline of the opening stage the engine of his Focus RS stalled. The car edged past the timing beam but two minutes went by before the Spaniard could fire up the engine and continue. He slipped to ninth but recovered to pass Francois Delecour to claim eighth. 
“As the start lights went out the car moved forward slightly and then stalled,” said Sainz. “We pushed it to the side of the road but it wouldn’t start for a couple of minutes. It was frustrating, especially as we had no other problems. It’s been a hard weekend. The stages were tricky and the weather yesterday gave us problems with tyre selection.” 
The rally also marked the successful introduction of Ford’s new gearchange paddle. All three official Focus RS cars were fitted with the system, mounted on the steering column, which allows drivers to change gear without removing their hands from the wheel. 
Armin Kremer and Dieter Schneppenheim’s hopes of a top 10 finish ended 6km into the opening stage when they crashed into a road barrier on a sixth gear corner. The impact was large and the car burst into flames. The car was heavily damaged but both escaped injury, a tribute to the strength of the Focus RS.  

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