Tuesday | 29 Nov 2022

WRC's 50 Greatest Moments: Märtin's dramatic maiden win

Markko Märtin netted his maiden WRC win at the Acropolis Rally in 2003 - but his triumph wasn’t without a challenge or two.

Märtin now works closely with 2019 world champion Ott Tänak. Back in 2003, however, he was in his late twenties and working hard to establish himself as one of the championship’s leading drivers. 

And the Estonian had unfinished business on the Acropolis. Twelve months earlier, he was denied victory by a costly puncture having duly built up a near-one-minute advantage over then team-mate Colin McRae. 

Things started strongly for Märtin and, with the Citroëns of Sébastien Loeb and McRae both hitting early trouble, he headed Ford Focus colleague François Duval by just 1.4sec heading into the Elatia - Zeli. 

But less than halfway through the 35-kilometre stage, drama struck. Flying through one of Greece’s notorious compressions, the Focus’s bonnet flew up - covering the entire windscreen. 

Visibility was one issue, as was the temperature. And we’re not talking about that of the engine. The cooling system - which fed cool air into the car’s cockpit - had been blocked. 

Around 20 kilometres of the stage still remained but Märtin and co-driver Michael Park opted to press on regardless - making the most of what limited visibility remained while trying not to cook themselves in the extreme heat. 

Amazingly, the pair only dropped six seconds to stage-winner Harri Rovanperä and, most importantly, their lead was extended thanks to Duval crashing out in the same test. 

Märtin’s efforts were finally rewarded just a couple of days later when he stood atop the podium for the very first time, winning the rally by 46 seconds from Carlos Sainz. 

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