Argentina : Ford World Rally Team - Finish
Ford extended its record-breaking run of points finishes in the FIA World Rally Championship to 66 when Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen finished 10th on Rally Argentina today. The Finns recovered from first-day transmission
troubles while leading to climb back onto the leaderboard and claim a manufacturer point to extend the longest scoring run in the history of the FIA World Rally Championship.
The run dates back to the opening round of the 2002 series in Monte Carlo and all 66 points finishes have been achieved with a Ford Focus RS World Rally Car.
This sixth round of the 16-rally series was based in Córdoba, 700km north of Buenos Aires. Three days of demanding gravel speed tests across the vast pampas covered 351.44km, and fog and rain yesterday posed an additional challenge to drivers. A spectacular purpose-built super special stage in Córdoba's soccer stadium started the competition on Thursday night and brought it to a close today, attracting more than 40,000 fans and a huge live worldwide TV audience on each occasion.
Today's final leg opened with two of the championship's most famous special stages. The rough and rocky Giulio Cesare and El Condor are unlike anything else encountered during the season. Narrow ribbons of road wind through a spectacular moonlike landscape, reaching 2195 metres.
Grönholm started the day in 10th, with no realistic opportunity to better his position, following Friday's time loss.
He took no chances on the rock-strewn stages, finishing Giulio Cesare third and El Condor in second. The 38-year-old Finn was then fastest on the penultimate stage, his seventh fastest time and more than any other driver on the rally.
"The time loss on Friday was a shame and left us struggling for a result," he said. "Tenth gave the team a point but it obviously wasn't what I wanted and I'm disappointed. I had hoped for more. At least I was able to come back and set several fastest times over the second and third legs and show again that the car has plenty of pace. The rally wasn't hard on tyres, despite the long sections with no opportunity to fit new rubber, and our engineers and those from BFGoodrich made some good choices. The stage in the soccer stadium was a spectacular show. As a driver, it's great to perform in front of so many people in such a great atmosphere."
Team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen retired their Focus RS on the opening leg with engine problems when third. The damage was too great for them to restart under SupeRally rules.
BP-Ford team director Malcolm Wilson said: "I'm happy that we have kept our points record but disappointed because that is all we've managed to salvage from this weekend, especially when we've shown that we can take the challenge to Loeb. The performance of the Focus RS was again a positive and we found a solution to Marcus' problem and ran the car faultlessly for two days. It's a shame for Mikko that he didn't gain the experience of running a full rally after he retired on Friday."
Ford TeamRS director Jost Capito was encouraged by Grönholm's seven stage victories. "But it's disappointing that we led the rally and scored the most stage wins but our pace wasn't reflected in the results. We must continue to work hard to overcome these teething problems with the new car."
The championship moves back to Europe for round seven with the second of three consecutive gravel events. The Mediterranean island of Sardinia hosts the Rally d'Italia Sardegna, which is based in Olbia on 18 - 21 May.
Press release Ford World Rally Team