If Colin McRae is to leave Ford, the future is still very bright for the Ford Team. Here's why.........
We must remember this San Remo weekend as the event when Estonia's favourite son Markko Martin finally cast away the shadow of his more illustrious team-mates to record his most notable result in the WRC, and firmly put himself up amongst the elite of the rallying world. The star has recorded better results, for example the fourth places secured this year in Argentina and Kenya, however his fifth place on the Italian asphalt surpasses those achievements in my view, and Markko can now push with confidence to a maiden WRC victory. Rarely have we seen Colin McRae so soundly eclipsed by a fellow driver, however even the Scot had to concede that Markko had the upper hand.
As Markko arrived at the final service in Imperia, he was ecstatic about his result "I’ve finally made it to the finish here!" he joked. "The car has felt great all weekend, the set-up has been perfect and apart from a few small mistakes, I’ve driven well. The team has made good progress on asphalt. We saw a huge improvement in performance here compared with the asphalt events at the start of the year and I think we can achieve much more on this kind of surface next season. We tried hard to move ahead of Richard Burns this morning but this afternoon the fight was over and I just concentrated on making no mistakes and enjoying myself."
Ford Rallye Sport team director Malcolm Wilson was full of praise for Märtin. "Markko is still young in rally terms. But he’s driven with the maturity of a much more experienced driver here, especially considering it’s an event he’s never finished before. When Carlos Sainz retired it was important that Markko and Colin kept cool and brought both cars home in the points. They did exactly that and it shows just how crucial it is to have a three car team. With three cars in the squad, there’s always a back-up if one retires. With only two, there is none," he said.
The reward for Markko is the continued guarantee of a 14 event schedule for 2003, and he now appears to be Ford's lead driver for next year - that maiden WRC win cannot be far away.