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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 March, 2004, 18:52 GMT
Martin sweeps to Mexico win
Markko Martin on the Rally of Mexico
Martin survived while quicker cars fell by the wayside
Markko Martin has led a Ford one-two on the inaugural Rally of Mexico.

The Estonian beat team-mate Francois Duval by 42.5 seconds, with Citroen's Carlos Sainz in third despite a roll.

Martin's Ford survived a tough event, in which pace-setters Petter Solberg, Sebastien Loeb and Marcus Gronholm all hit problems.

Subaru's Solberg recovered from a time penalty to finish fourth and Peugeot star Gronholm was sixth, while Loeb's Citroen retired after hitting a rock.

Martin's victory moves him level with Loeb at the head of the championship on 20 points, with Gronholm in third four points behind.

Sainz had been close behind Martin early on the final day only to roll his Citroen on the 13th stage of 15, ending the veteran Spaniard's hopes of a battle for victory and moving Duval up to second.

Sainz lost 73 seconds with his mishap, and only avoided losing more positions because of the high attrition rate on the rally.

Martin said: "The main factor was to stay out of trouble and not to have any problems, and we had a good car to do that. It was running quite nicely for us; normally I'd go a lot faster."

Solberg, who was the fastest man on the event, was hit with a five-minute penalty on day one after a service infringement and was still nearly two minutes behind the Spaniard after the final stage.

"If it wasn't for the penalty, I would have won by three minutes," said Solberg.

"Except for that, everything has been perfect."

The Norwegian was followed home by Subaru team-mate Mikko Hirvonen.

For Gronholm, it was the second rally in succession that his hopes of a victory have been dashed by a power steering failure.

Loeb said: "Of course, this is a great disappointment. We were leading, setting our pace on that of Markko.

"Petter's penalty put me in the lead, now I'm the one to suffer bad luck. The outcome of a rally sometimes depends on fate. You have to learn to accept it."




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