By winning the inaugural Mexico Rally on Sunday, Markko Martin topped a dramatic one-two finish for Ford in the manufacturer’s 100th WRC event.

By winning the inaugural Mexico Rally on Sunday, Markko Martin topped a dramatic one-two finish for Ford in the manufacturer’s 100th WRC event.

The Estonian headed home team-mate Francois Duval by 42 seconds, with Citroën's Carlos Sainz dropping to third after a costly half-roll on the final day. With the result, Martin moved up to share the lead of the WRC driver’s championship with Sébastien Loeb and Ford vaulted to the top of the manufacturers' standings.

The first day of the event, Friday, saw with WRC champion Petter Solberg leading the rally in his 2004-spec Subaru Impreza. However, Citroën Xsara star Loeb closely matched the Norwegian and was only five seconds adrift of the champion.

That all changed when Solberg's battery expired and he couldn't restart the Impreza to drive into service. He and co-driver Phil Mills physically shoved the car in 40 seconds late, but had illegally received outside assistance in doing so. Stewards handed out a five-minute penalty, dropping the Norwegian to 13th.

Day two started badly for second placed Marcus Gronholm, whose power steering gave up on his Peugeot 307 WRC just as it had done in Sweden. He manhandled the car through the opening three stages on Saturday, but dropped back to seventh.

Leader Loeb went out after SS6, as a heavy landing on a quick right-hander meant his Xsara's sump made unhealthy contact with a very solid rock. Despite trying to stem the oil leak on the following road section, Loeb posted his first retirement of the season - a cruel way to lose a 30-odd second lead.

Martin admitted took advantage when Sainz escaped a massive high-speed spin that cost him time. The Estonian inherited a 9,7 second lead, while the delayed Solberg and Gronholm were already back up to fifth and sixth. Martin extended his lead as the day progressed, but didn't help his cause by arriving late at the start of stage 10, which saw him incur a 10 second penalty.

He ended day two with a 14,4 seconds advantage over Sainz, who had been swapping second with Duval despite running on worn tyres after a mix-up on selection as per the new rules.

The star of Saturday, however, was Solberg. He was fastest on every stage, easily outpacing the battle for the lead. Martin, meanwhile, survived a scare when his cockpit filled with smoke near the end of day two, but the problem was short lived.

Sainz attacked on the final day, getting to within 11,8 seconds of Martin after the second stage of the morning. But it all went wrong on SS13, the Spaniard rolling his Citroën onto its side, but he was able to continue, albeit having lost 1m13s. That promoted Duval to second, sealing a perfect result for M-Sport.

Sainz cruised home in third, and Solberg's fightback yielded fourth place as he passed team-mate Mikko Hirvonen on the penultimate stage. The Norwegian reduced the gap to the leader to 3m14secs by the finish, not bad for someone who lost 5m40secs at the end of the opening day.

Gronholm finished sixth, despite setting some quick stage times later, while Finnish privateer Jussi Valimaki (Hyundai) got the better of a late scrap for seventh with Mitsubishi's Gilles Panizzi.

Original article from Car