Meet the Patrons
Markko Martin never won a world rally title but he did triumph on some of the championship’s most iconic events following his rise from relative obscurity in his native Estonia.
During his three-year stint with the factory Ford team between 2002 and 2004, Martin was a winner in Finland, Corsica and Greece and also added victories in Mexico and Spain for good measure.
But it was his performance on the gruelling Acropolis Rally of 2002 that marked him out as a true star after he had shown glimpses of early promise in a privateer Toyota Corolla before switching to a works Subaru Impreza.
He’d been building his overall lead in Greece when a puncture dropped him back on day two. It handed victory to Colin McRae who said afterwards that he simply had no answer to Martin’s pace.
Martin’s potential was realised when he was asked to lead the factory Ford team in 2003 following McRae’s move to Citroen and he made the most of the opportunity by claiming his maiden victory on the Acropolis Rally of that year, despite a scare on the Elatia stage, where he’d punctured the previous season.
With 20 kilometres of the 34-kilometre test remaining, the bonnet of Martin’s Ford Focus flew up into the car’s windscreen to the extent he could barely see where he was going.
Unwilling to stop to close it due to the amount of time he would have lost, Martin managed to lower himself enough in his seat to peer through a gap beneath the bonnet so he could just about see the road. Listening more intently than ever to co-driver Michael ‘Beef’ Park’s instructions, Martin completed the stage with a time that was just six seconds slower than the overall fastest.
Martin went on to win again that season in Finland after a titanic scrap with local hero Marcus Gronholm and took fifth in the final drivers’ standings. He went two better in 2004 to claim third in the table despite a huge crash on Rally Argentina.
A move to Peugeot followed for 2005 but his season was cut short when co-driver Park was killed when they crashed on Rally GB.
Since then Martin has established his own successful rally team in Estonia. He also acts as a mentor to rising Estonian talent Ott Tanak and has been called up to perform test driving duties for several manufacturers, who have warmed to his no-nonsense approach.
During his WRC career, Martin became close friends with Richard and entered – and won – the inaugural Richard Burns Memorial Rally in September 2008.