Target: 50th consecutive points finish

Target: 50th consecutive points finishFrom Ford Press [ 10/05/2005 ].
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Ford aims to create history on the Cyprus Rally (12 - 15 May) by extending its remarkable points scoring record in the FIA World Rally Championship to 50 consecutive events. Since the championship was officially launched in 1973, there have been 410 world rallies and no other manufacturer has composed a run of successive points scores that exceeds 35 events. The record-breaking sequence began on the Monte Carlo Rally in 2002. BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen and team-mates Roman Kresta and Jan Možný carried the run to 49 when both scored points in Italy earlier this month. All 49 points finishes have been scored by the Ford Focus RS World Rally Car.

Gardemeister and Kresta are the two drivers with the task of taking Ford to its half century. The Cyprus Rally, round six of the championship, is the first of three consecutive hot weather, rough road events in the eastern Mediterranean. The Focus RS has built an awesome reputation on events where rocky gravel tracks and high temperatures require a crucial blend of strength, reliability and speed to be successful. It has won in Cyprus twice in the rally's five years in the championship.

The rock-strewn roads high in the Troodos Mountains above the rally base in Limassol are hard on cars. The three-day rally will offer some of the toughest conditions of the season where endurance is as important as outright pace. The speed tests are so twisty that straights simply do not exist and the rally is the slowest in the championship. Last year's event was won at an average speed of only 65.60kph.

This will be the fourth start in Cyprus for Gardemeister, who lies fifth in the drivers' championship and has scored on all five rounds so far this season. "Consistent scoring is the key to a good championship position but it's also important to ensure that some of those points finishes are podium places to claim high points," said the 30-yerar-old Finn.

"Cyprus is twisty, slow and rough and it's not one of my favourite events. It's important to drive straight and avoid breaking the car because there are many stones on the road that can inflict heavy damage. It's difficult to keep a smooth rhythm because the speeds are so low and there is always the temptation to push harder. The roads are quite flowing but if a driver pushes too hard then the car slides off line, it loses momentum and risks picking up punctures.

"Cyprus is hard on tyres. The roads are abrasive and there is so much acceleration out of corners that there is always the danger of excessive wheelspin. It's necessary to look after the tyres to ensure they are still working to the maximum towards the end of a group of stages. It's also important for an engine to have good torque to make the most from the constant acceleration," added Gardemeister.

Kresta, who claimed a career-best finish on the last round in Italy, has competed in Cyprus just once, in 2002 when conditions were unusually wet. "I have in-car video footage from that year and some of the stages are exactly the same as this year. Before I go out there I will watch the video and get my mind focused on the type of roads that we will experience," he said.

"The roads are rough and twisty and in places they are similar to the kind of stages we have just driven in Sardinia. It will be important to keep a smooth line because there are plenty of stones on the edge of the road. A good car for Cyprus needs good throttle response, good torque, good suspension and good tyres. The roads are hard on tyres but I think Michelin proved on the toughest stages in Sardinia that it has the rubber which will be good for Cyprus. It's a tough rally for drivers as well because the high temperatures mean it's hot in the car and the low speeds provide little air flow through the cockpit.

"The Focus is also well-suited to this kind of rally. It's easy to drive on the slower sections and you don't need an aggressive style, so there is not the risk of pushing too hard and losing the line and time," he added.