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Planning keeps Ford rally show on the gravel road

In action: All the hard logistical efforts are designed to support this, a factory Focus RS WRC going flat-out.

For the factory Ford team it's been a long hard road just to get to Rally Australia

29 Oct 2002

AUSTRALIA pays its annual homeage to the wild men of dirt when our round of the World Rally Championship is staged in Perth from Friday October 31 through to November 3.

But behind the swashbuckling and slideways performances of world rally stars like factory Ford aces Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz there's an immense logistical operation underway to get them to some of the championship's far-flung locations and then support them in the actual events.

For Perth, the penultimate round of the championship, the factory M-Sport Ford team actually expands to four drivers, with promising young Frenchman Francois Duval joining McRae, Sainz and the emerging star Markko Martin of Estonia in the four-wheel drive Focus RS assault.

It adds another layer of complexity to the life of the team's co-ordination manager John Millington and his staff, who must reserve flights, ferries, seaborne transport for cars and service vehicles, accommodation and fuel supply as well as placing the team's official event entry.

There are some key stats which underline the immensity of the task:146,370 - that's the number of kilometres each member of the "away" team flies each year35,679 - the litres of FIA fuel used by the Ford team in 200216,656 - the number of meals served by the team's catering staff in 20029826 - the number of personnel days it takes to support all tests, recces and rallies with the minimum number of personnel required159 - total number of employees based at the team's headquarters at Dovenby Hall in Cumbria in the UK65 - number of team members travelling to Australia to support the four car entry, including team management, drivers, engineers, mechanics and support personnel130 - the tonnes of equipment shipped by air and sea to Africa for the Safari Rally1000 - the number of tyres on an event John Millington has to keep track of"It's a very busy time of the year," he said before the Rally of New Zealand earlier this month. "The obvious problem we have with New Zealand and Australia is the physical distance from the UK. Thankfully the two events are linked together.

"We've air-freighted four Focus RS WRCs to New Zealand. In addition we've sent by sea five service trucks and six recce cars and all of the supporting spares for the event. All of the specialist spares such as electronics, turbos, transmissions and engines etcetera are air-freighted direct from Cumbria.

"Once we have sent everything out to New Zealand most items will then be sea-freighted to Australia but not the race cars. The three entry cars from New Zealand will be air-freighted back to the UK after the event and then re-built at M-Sport for the RAC Rally. Three new cars will be prepared in the UK for Australia and air-freighted there."While the best efforts of Millington and the rest of the Ford WRC squad won't be enough to clinch this year's world championships for drivers or manufacturers, which have already been wrapped up Marcos Gronholm and the Peugeot team, both McRae and Sainz are involved in an eight-way shootout for the championship runner-up slot.

McRae resumes his partnership with former co-driver Derek Ringer with whom the 34-year-old won the 1995 world title, after splitting with Nicky Grist. It's also the Scotsman's second last drive for Ford before moving on to Citroen in 2003.

He has won twice in Australia and is keen to end his Ford career on a high by taking his personal tally of Focus wins into double figures.

"It's about keeping the car right for three days and driving flat out," said McRae.

"The main differences between Australia and anywhere else are the road surface and the position of the trees. The roads have a hard base but are covered in millions of tiny stones that are slippery.

"The trees are right on the edge of the road. If you make a mistake and run wide, it's difficult to get the car back on line on the slippery surface so it's easier to hit the trees than on other events.

"It's not a problem unless you hit them!"Rally Australia is one of the few world rallies that Sainz and co-driver Luis Moya have yet to win. However, the Spanish pair have finished second three times and third on two occasions.

There are several changes to the format this year at Rally Australia.

Drivers make the long journey south of Perth on the opening leg, with a new service park at Dwellingup instead of Harvey.

The traditional opening day stages east of the city now comprise leg two, the longest of the event, with a new service area at Chidlow replacing Mundaring.

The final leg in the SOTICO forest complex remains unchanged.

The jewel in the crown, the famous Langley Park super special stage, overlooking the Perth's Swan River, opens the competition on Thursday evening when around 20,000 fans will generate a tremendous atmosphere at the purpose-built floodlit test. Langley Park will be repeated at the end of both the first and second legs.

There are 24 stages in total, covering 388.64km in a route of 1571.98km. In the absence of the 45km Wellington Dam test, this year's longest will be the 38.93km Stirling East in the first leg

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