Markko Martin demonstrated the Focus WRC03’s hot pace when he challenged Peugeot’s Marcus Gronholm in Argentina recently and Ford this week redoubled its efforts to improve the new car’s reliability.

Markko Martin demonstrated the Focus WRC03’s hot pace when he challenged Peugeot’s Marcus Gronholm in Argentina recently and Ford this week redoubled its efforts to improve the new car’s reliability.

Martin and team-mate Francois Duval are conducting a four-day tarmac test at Gap in the south-east of France. It is the first major asphalt test of the Focus WRC03, which had its first outing at the Rally of New Zealand last month.

The development programme will continue next week as Ford heads to Greece for a five-day test ahead of the Acropolis Rally in June. Team boss Malcolm Wilson has targeted the rough gravel rally as a place where the new car could take its first win of the season.

“We’ve always had a record on that type of event,” the team chief said of the Acropolis. “While I was a little concerned about the durability of the car, but Argentina demonstrated just how strong the car is. The cars have hit some big rocks and they have withstood the impact - that’s tremendously encouraging.”

Martin retired from the lead of Rally Argentina with an engine problem, but both his car and Duval’s Focuses suffered a similar gearbox glitch on the rally.

“I’m confident we can fix the problem,” he added. “We know what it is - it’s an internal part of the gearbox. As for the engine problem, when you have Carlos Sainz coming up to you and telling you that the Ford engine is stronger than the Citroën, then that is good!”

Original article from Car