Ford look to transfer winning to asphalt

Ford look to transfer winning to asphaltFrom Ford Press [ 16/08/2007 ].
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After dominating the last three rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship on gravel, BP-Ford World Rally Team takes its lead in both the manufacturers' and drivers' series to Germany next week for the first taste of asphalt since January. Rallye Deutschland (16 - 19 August) will mark the sealed surface debut of the 2007-specification Ford Focus RS World Rally Car which made a hugely successful maiden appearance with a one-two finish in Finland earlier this month. Reigning champion BP-Ford goes into the event with a 40-point lead in the manufacturers' standings while Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen, whose Finland victory followed early summer wins in Italy and Greece, are 13 points clear in the drivers' series. Team-mates and fellow Finns Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen lie third, just five points behind Sébastien Loeb.


Grönholm has four podium finishes from five starts in Germany and the 39-year-old acknowledges the challenges this event poses. "This will be one of the most difficult events of the season," he said. "The stages aren't easy and the weather plays such a huge part in the outcome. It's unpredictable and if a driver is on the wrong type of rain when it suddenly rains, then that can decide the outcome. It rained most of the day during our test on Thursday so that helped us to try a few things in the wet."

"Beating Loeb on asphalt is a big task but I hope we can be really close to him and if that is the case, who knows what will happen? We proved in Finland the new Focus RS has moved forward and this rally will give everyone an idea how the second half of the season could develop," he added.

This is Hirvonen's fourth start in Germany and the 27-year-old is keen to assess the improvement of the new Focus RS on asphalt. "We tested in Spain in June and in Germany this week and I think we've made a bigger improvement on asphalt than on gravel with the new car," he said. "It has more grip and is more precise to drive.

"I'm not going there thinking I can win. My aim is to push Dani Sordo as hard as I can and if I can take third, that would be like a win for me. There are many challenges on this rally. Baumholder is extremely fast in places and the vineyards require a lot of courage. The roads are fast and narrow and if you don't have a good feeling with the tyres, it's easy to lose a lot of time there," he added.

Abu Dhabi driver Khalid Al Qassimi and Nicky Beech will drive a third Focus RS on their WRC asphalt debut after an encouraging 16th place finish in Finland. “Obviously it will be completely different from Finland," said Al Qassimi. "The recce will be the first time I see the stages themselves and I’ll have a much better idea of the challenges on Wednesday evening.

"In Finland I got a good basic understanding of how the car works, where my braking points were and how much speed I could carry in the corners. However, in Germany many of those things will be different again. So I need to understand this surface and how to adapt my pace notes for the event to ensure I reach the finish," added 35-year-old Al Qassimi.