- November 10, 1975
- Not Active
Markko Martin is one the best rally drivers from Estonia. He recorded 86 World Rally Championship starts between 1997 and 2005, winning five times and scoring eighteen podiums. He was a member of three factory teams, driving for Subaru, Ford and Peugeot. Martin left WRC after his co-driver Michael Park was killed at 2005 Wales Rally GB. After that, he occasionally competed in various rally events with different cars but his main focus is on managing duties for his own team MM Motorsport.
Markko started his rally career with Lada Samara
Markko Märtin was born on November 10, 1975, in Tartu, the second largest city in Estonia. He started rallying in 1994, driving the Lada Samara in the Estonian Championship. His co-driver was Jaanus Robi.
After two seasons with Lada, Markko switched to Ford Escort RS Cosworth in 1996, scoring the second place in the Group A of the Estonian Championship. He still had no wins on his account, only several podiums.
WRC debut and two Estonian titles with Toyota Celica
In 1996, Märtin tried Toyota Celica Turbo 4WD in one event and then he continued to drive that car in the 1997 season, taking the Estonian title together with co-driver Toomas Kitsing. In August 1997, Martin debuted in the World Rally Championship. His first WRC event was the Neste Rally Finland, in which he retired after 10 special stages due to gearbox failure.
In 1998, Martin switched to Toyota Celica GT-Four and clinched one more Estonian title. He expanded his WRC programme to four events, driving Toyota in Portugal, Finland, Italy and the UK. He retired in Portugal (accident) and Italy (suspension), finishing 12th in Finland and 9th in the UK.
Switching to WRC cars in 1999
In 1999, Martin and Kitsing jumped into their first WRC car. It was the Ford Escort WRC. They won the Estonian Winter Rally with that car and then finished 8th in the Swedish Rally. At Rallye de Portugal, Martin retired and then he changed the car, driving the Toyota Corolla WRC in four WRC events (Greece, Finland, Italy and the UK).
In June, at Acropolis Rally, Markko achieved his best result, finishing fifth and taking first WRC points. He was again among top 10 finishers at Network Q Rally GB, finishing 8th.
Markko Märtin and Michael Park became a pair in 2000
Martin's good performances weren't unnoticed and he signed for Lukoil EOS Rally Team to drive Toyota Corolla WRC in eight WRC events during 2000. Markko met Michael Park and the Briton became his navigator. They stayed together for six seasons until Park's premature death. In their first season together, Martin and Park were five times inside the Top 10, with sixth place at Cyprus Rally as the best result.
In November 2000, at Telstra Rally Australia, they had a one-off participation with factory-entered Subaru Impreza S6 WRC. It didn't last long, as they retired after the first special stage because of transmission failure.
Märtin was driving for Subaru World Rally Team in 2001
Martin moved to the Subaru World Rally Team in 2001. SWRT's main drivers were Colin McRae and Richard Burns, Märtin was sharing the third car with Toshihiro Arai.
Märtin participated in nine WRC events, reaching the finish line just three times. His best result was the fifth place at Rally Finland. At Tour de Corse, he finished sixth. In Sweden, he was 12th in the classification.
McRae and Märtin together moved to Ford
In 2002, both Colin McRae and Markko Märtin moved to Ford's factory team, to drive the Ford Focus RS WRC 02 alongside Carlos Sainz. Martin became the regular point scorer.
He was on the way to his maiden WRC victory in Greece, leading until the SS8 when two punctures ruined his efforts. In the last championship round, at Rally GB, Martin finally reached his first WRC podium. He was second, behind Petter Solberg. Martin finished ninth in the championship points.
Maiden WRC victory at 2003 Acropolis Rally
Good performances continued in 2003 and the maiden WRC victory came at Acropolis Rally in June. In 2003, Martin was a leading driver of the Ford World Rally Team. Other two full-time drivers were Francois Duval and Mikko Hirvonen, while Jari-Matti Latvala participated in four events.
Martin's second victory followed at Rally Finland in August. He was the third non-Scandinavian driver in a history who won in Finland. At the end of the season, Martin and Park were fifth in the championship points.
Three wins and third championship place in the 2004 season
In 2004, Martin was again Ford's leading driver, with Francois Duval and Antony Warmbold in other two cars. Martin showed that he was a true leader, winning three times and adding six more podiums. In March, he won the Rally Mexico, which happened for the first time in the WRC calendar.
Two more wins followed at two asphalt classics – Tour de Corse and Rally Catalunya. In his career-best season, Martin finished third in the points, three points behind Petter Solberg. The champion was, for the first time, Sebastien Loeb.
Joining Peugeot team for 2005 WRC season
For the 2005 WRC season, Martin and Park joined Marlboro Peugeot Total team, to compete in the #8 Peugeot 307 WRC. Martin's teammate was a former double world champion Marcus Gronholm.
Martin scored no wins with Peugeot, but he reached four podiums in eleven events (Sweden, Mexico, Cyprus and Finland). With five more races to go, he could have been the championship runner-up, since Sebastien Loeb was far away ahead of everyone.
Michael Park lost his life in the Wales Rally GB accident
And then the 2005 Wales Rally GB came. On Sunday, September 18, Markko was running sixth. At SS15 (Margam Park), he crashed heavily into a tree. Markko was unhurt but Michael Park was killed instantly.
The remaining two stages were canceled. Shaken by the death of his longstanding partner, Martin pulled out from the championship, missing the last four events. Despite that, he was classified in the fifth place.
Leaving WRC and focusing on his own team
At the end of the season, Martin announced that he will retire from the professional rallying in the world's premier competition. He focused on his team MM Motorsport, which was founded in 2005, to manage young rally drivers, primarily in his homeland Estonia. One of his proteges is Ott Tanak, currently the only Estonian in the top class of the world's rallying.
Martin was working for some rally teams (Subaru, Mini and Ford) as a test driver and development driver, but also as a trainer of Ken Block who was preparing for 2010 WRC season.
Although he left WRC, Markko Martin never completely retired from rallying, occasionally participating in rally events across the world. He even competed in the 2006 Danish Touring Car Championship, driving the Honda Accord in five races. In 2016 and 2017, he participated in several historic events with Ford Escort RS 1800 but also won one Estonian rally with Ford Focus RS WRC 03.