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GP Week : Issue 133
Notwithstanding his teams’ success in Australia, M-Sport chief Malcolm Wilson continues to be under pressure as he seeks to establish the future of Ford’s involvement in the world rally championship, which is still far from sure. At the pre-Rally Australia press conference, he was asked directly where things had been going wrong for the Ford team this year: “You can imagine what it is like for everybody in the team. The team’s situation is all the more worrying when you realise just how competitive the team has been, especially on asphalt – the most competitive we have been so far since the days of Markko Martin in 2004. “Two of the rallies this year were lost by the smallest margins in the history of the WRC. If we had won those events it would have made all the difference to how the 2011 championship has been going for us. (Eight successive wins for Citroen) is not a good position for me to be in at the moment. “We consider we have got the right pace and our drivers can do the job and we have just got to try to win all the remaining events. We have been losing rallies by such a small margin and this means it is very difficult to pinpoint the reason.” When asked if the drivers had performed the way it was expected, Wilson said: “ The performance has been there but there have been the odd glitches, technical things, driving things. To win at this level everything has to be 100 percent and that includes drivers, the team and everything.” When asked if the same drivers will continue with the team next year, Wilson ominously replied: “My priority is to keep Ford in the WRC. Of course we want to strengthen our driver line-up, but our main priority is to keep Ford in the WRC.” Does the exciting performance in Australia make a difference? “At least it will not do any harm.” Before the rally, Ford’s competition chief Gerard Quinn would not be drawn, beyond saying that talks were advancing towards making a decision in and around October. Hayden Paddon’ s victory in the PCWRC series in Australia was his fourth of the season, enough to make him unbeatable in the series with two rounds still to go. This is the tenth season for this world championship series which superceded the old FIA Cup series for Production Car Drivers which had run since 1987 as an adjunct to the main WRC series. Although South Americans Gustavo Trelles and Gabriel Pozzo won the FIA Cup in earlier years, 2011 is the first time any official FIA world rally champion has come from south of the Equator. For this event Hayden drove a Subaru prepared in New Zealand, rather than transport his usual car prepared by Symtech in Belgium. Things were going well through Day 1 when he led the category by over 90 seconds but on the second stage of Day 2 he had a broken turbo pipe which caused him to drop nearly 50 seconds behind Mitsubishi driver Michal Kosciuszko. After service, Paddon whittled back the lost time and pulled up to lead Kosciuszko at the end of Day 2 by 2.9 seconds. Challenging hard was Brendan Reeves, delayed by a time control error on the Thursday Superspecials, pulling up to third place by the mid-day service on Day 2, but then he had a delay at service when the car would not restart. This problem then recurred on a stage during the afternoon and stopped him for the rest of the day. Third PCWRC place became the domain of the Ukrainian driver Oleksandr Saliuk ahead of the Mexican Benito Guerra. Struggling through the event was Harry Hunt, leader in the FIA’s Production Car Cup for 2WD drivers, but whose Citroen DS3 R3T had everlasting trouble in water crossings and then a puncture and a loose turbo pipe. But he finally reached the finish securing his third maximum score in the series and becoming unbeatable in the FIA Cup. Kiwi locks up PWRC Ford ‘s WRC future in doubt?