September 18, 2005 Wales Rally GB came to a tragic end this morning following a fatal accident in which Marco Martin's co-driver Michael Park was killed. The stage was immediately stopped and the remaining two scheduled stages abandoned. World Championship leader Sebastien Loeb was leading the rally at the time and the win would have given him the 2005 title. Rather than win the title in such tragic circumstances, Loeb purposefully took a time penalty. Park was one of the most likeable people in a friendly paddock and will be sadly missed. He leaves a wife, Marie, and two children, William and Victoria. It is a sad day for WRC and Motorsport.
Park was one of the top co-drivers of his generation, having been a rally enthusiast since the age of 10. He worked with former world champions Richard Burns and Colin McRae as a gravel note expert while co-driving for both David Higgins and Mark Higgins in the British national series. His big break, however, came when he teamed up with the emerging Martin as a privateer pairing in a Toyota Corolla for the 2000 World Rally Championship season.
After a string of impressive performances the pair were signed up by Subaru for 2001, before moving to Ford, where they evolved into one of the leading driver/co-driver combinations in the WRC. In 2003 they took two rally victories, in Greece and Finland, and improved on that figure with three wins in 2004.
The pair were lying fourth in this season's title race after securing four podiums in a season dominated by Citroen's Sebastien Loeb. Their performances had been instrumental in Peugeot's challenge for the manufacturer's championship, with the team lying six points behind French rivals Citroen.
The Peugeot Rally team immediately withdrew from the rally and with plans already in place to withdraw from WRC compatition at year’s end, the chances are that the team may now elect not to compete in the final rallies.
Wales Rally GB - Final Positions
1. Petter Solberg/Phil Mills Subaru Impreza WRC 2005 2 hr 45 min 57.8sec 2. François Duval/Sven Smeets Citroën Xsara WRC 2 hr 47 min 15.2sec 3. Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena Citroën Xsara WRC 2 hr 47 min 15.7sec 4. Harri Rovanperä/Risto Pietiläinen Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 2 hr 47 min 27.2sec 5. Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor Citroën Xsara WRC 2 hr 48 min 32.8sec 6. Roman Kresta/Jan Tomanek Ford Focus RS WRC04 2 hr 49 min 15.1sec 7. Colin McRae/Nicky Grist _koda Octavia WRC 2 hr 49 min 28.2sec 8. Mark Higgins/Brian Thomas Ford Focus RS WRC02 2 hr 49 min 38.7sec 9. Kris Meeke/Glen Patterson Subaru Impreza WRC 2 hr 49 min 39.9sec 10. Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud Ford Focus RS WRC04 2 hr 50 min 18.3sec 13. Gigi Galli/Guido d’Amore Mitsubishi Lancer WRC05 2 hr 55 min 38.7sec
FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers
Sébastien Loeb 99 Petter Solberg 65 Marcus Grönholm 61 Markko Märtin 53 Toni Gardemeister 47 Harri Rovanperä 27 François Duval 24 Manfred Stohl 16 Roman Kresta 16 Carlos Sainz 11 Gigi Galli 10 Henning Solberg 9 Mikko Hirvonen 8 Gilles Panizzi 7
FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers
Citroën 137 Peugeot 117 Ford 76 Subaru 72 Mitsubishi 54 Skoda 12