Markko Martin wins Finland rally

By Time of article published Aug 10, 2003

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By Alistair Holloway

Jyvaskyla,Finland - Estonian Markko Martin won the Finland Rally on Sunday to move up in the overall rankings to joint fifth.

Martin was 58.9 seconds faster than Norwegian runner-up Petter Solberg while overall leader Richard Burns of Britain finished third.

The Estonian, who won his first ever race this season in Greece, is only the third driver from outside the Nordic region to win the event.

"This is a dream come true for me. There is no rally in the championship I would rather win than this because Finland is the home of rallying and it is every driver's greatest wish to be successful here," Martin said.

Martin took a 1:13 lead into the third and final day of racing. Fortunately his Ford seemed free of the electrical problems that slowed him on Saturday and he managed to hold out Burns who won three of the final day's stages and Solberg, who grabbed the final two stages.

There was a tough battle for second place with less than two seconds separating Peugeot's Burns and Subaru's Solberg as they headed into the final stage. In the end Solberg edged 1.2 seconds ahead.

"What can you do, you just have to go flat out," Burns told state radio YLE.

With five rallies left, Burns leads the overall standings despite not winning a race this season, helped by a new points system that rewards the top eight finishers rather than the top six and narrows the gap between the winner and runner up.

Spain's Carlos Sainz is second after finishing fourth in Finland while Solberg is joint-third with defending champion Marcus Gronholm.

Martin's hopes of winning the rally had received a huge boost on Saturday when Gronholm crashed, ending his hopes of a fourth straight win on home soil. He had been neck and neck with Martin until then.

The Finnish rally is the fastest on the circuit, run on tightly packed gravel tracks with drivers averaging 120 kph and regularly exceeding 200 kph.

Britain's Colin McRae dramatically rolled his Citroen on Saturday after hitting a sandy part of the course on a left-hand bend. He and co-driver Derek Ringer were uninjured.

The race saw 34 drivers retire from the rally, most with mechanical problems, but nine were forced off the road with one fire.

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