Estonian wins Acropolis Rally

Estonian Markko Martin scored an emphatic first-ever World Rally Championship win at the 50th Acropolis Rally yesterday, giving Ford their fourth successive victory in Greece. In hot and dusty conditions as temperatures reached 34 degrees Celsius (93F), Martin easily held off Spaniard Carlos Sainz, who finished 46 seconds behind. «It’s very, very good to finally win a world championship rally,» the 27-year-old Martin told the WRC website. «And it’s especially good that it’s with the new Ford Focus.» «It was clear that I needed a bit of luck. We knew that we had a car capable of winning. I thought I was capable. It was just a question of time. We’re over the moon,» said Beef Park, Martin’s co-driver in the Ford Focus WRS 03. «I think it’s overdue, but I would say that. It’s like a numb feeling, we’ve dreamed of it so long.» The dramatic final stages saw Norway’s Petter Solberg battling in vain in his Subaru to snatch second place from Sainz in his Citroen. See-saw final day After a see-saw final day Sainz held on under intense pressure from Solberg who had to be satisfied with third despite winning four of yesterday’s six stages. The Norwegian, who was 15 seconds slower than Sainz in the 21st stage after damaging both the front and rear of his car, was angry with Britain’s Colin McRae after a clash on the stage. Solberg was driving flat out to recover from a spin when he came across McRae’s Citroen crawling along having lost power. «He should have kept to the left or the right,» the Norwegian said. «I lost a little bit early in the stage and more behind Colin. It was (rubbish) today.» «I am happy with third but at the same time disappointed because we lost second.» Championship leader Richard Burns finished fourth in his Peugeot after suffering gearbox problems. Struggling with no second gear, the Englishman set the second-best time in the final stage, stealing fourth place from veteran former world champion Tommi Makinen. Another Finn, Harri Rovanpera, took sixth place in his Peugeot, while France’s Gilles Pannizi was seventh overall, also driving a Peugeot. McRae, who had won the Acropolis Rally for the past three years, took the final drivers’ championship point after finishing in eighth place. Burns leads the championship with 37 points, five more than Sainz, with reigning champion Marcus Gronholm third on 30 points after retiring from the Greek rally. (Reuters)

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