Pirtek Ford team weathers the battle
- 17th July 2006, 8:17am
Based in the Huon Valley south of Hobart, the event had two contrasting days, with drying conditions on the first day, then wet weather on day #2.
The dryer conditions, plus the wide open stages suited the rear-wheel-drive Focus with Michael Guest and co-driver Mark Stacey stretching the legs of the Ford throughout the opening day.
With the exception of the spectator super stage, which was run in heavy conditions, the Focus set times that would have had it placed as high as sixth by the end of the opening leg.
The tough going in the Super Stage, plus some damage after two heavy impacts to the rear suspension cross-member, placed the Focus in ninth.
The Pirtek Rally Team was hoping for similar conditions in leg #2, but the weather closed-in overnight and the stages were more like ice rinks than rally roads.
These conditions better suited the all-wheel-drive runners. Guest and Stacey attacked as hard as they could with the aim of once again finishing the leg in the top-10.
With the slippery conditions came the added challenge of tyre damage. For the first time this year the Focus suffered a puncture. Not once but twice.
Guest was able to complete two stages with the punctures. The strength of the Hankook tyre casing meant the crew could complete the stages, although at slower speed.
The Pirtek Rally Team Ford Focus completed the second leg in 11th position.
"We were hoping for a little better result, but the twisty super stage and slippery conditions worked against us," said Michael Guest.
"In saying that we had a pretty reliable run. I hit the same rock twice on the opening day to damage the cross-member, and then the punctures on the second day were caused by rocks being brought onto the road by others. We certainly weren't alone in suffering punctures, in wet conditions there's a greater chance of that happening.
"After non-finishes in the opening two rounds, we have now strung back-to-back complete events. That's pleasing for everyone involved, as we are beginning to prove the Focus's strength in different conditions.
"Mark and I had a blast in the fast sections on Saturday. The car was very quick and with the new rear-wing was a lot more stable.
"The next event in South Australia is a wide-open fast event as well. If we can keep it dry I'm sure we can really challenge for a top-six or better."
Technical Director Steve Hoinville was again pleased with the result.
"To be just 30-seconds out of sixth place on Saturday is a big boost for the team," said Hoinville.
"Over the last two events we have completed 39 straight stages and 376 competitive kilometres in contrasting conditions. During this period we have not taken any time penalties; that's a credit to the work of the boys in the car as well as the crew.
"This weekend we introduced the new rear-wing as well as increased the rev-range of the motor from 7500 to 8100RPM, which both performed strongly.
"I was very pleased with the team's performance as a group. We had a couple of challenges with the damaged cross-members, but we repaired them and it didn't affect the car's performance.
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