TALLINN - Estonia's star rally driver, Markko Martin, shocked his fans with an announcement that he no longer wanted to drive in World Championship rallies. He asserted that the decision was not connected with a recent accident in which his co-driver, Michael Park, died tragically.
Martin publicly announced the news during an interview with the "Happy Hour" talk show on Kanal 2 television. The athlete told host Urmas Ott that he had made up his mind last summer before the accident even took place. He said the two-year contract he had signed with Peugeot would have been his last anyway.
Martin, 30, cited his age as justification for quitting, adding that he was ready to pursue other things.
On Sept. 18, Park was killed during stage 15 of the Wales Rally GB after Martin's Peugeot 307 crashed on the passenger side into a tree. Martin escaped uninjured. The stage was halted, after which race organizers cancelled the final two stages.
"It is with deep regret that we confirm that Michael Park was fataly injured following an accident on special stage 15," a statement from race organizers read following the tragedy.
Park was a highly experienced co-driver who teamed up with Martin in 2000 when the Estonian was rallying a privately entered Toyota. The pair had won five world rallies together and were close friends.
After the tragic accident, Martin said he would have liked to continue rally driving for one more year because he didn't want to end his career on a negative note.
"I would have liked a positive message," he said.
But as Peugeot pulled out of the World Championship rallies, the contract ended. Martin has promised to drive in rallies as a hobby in the future - news that appeased some of his fans.
"I will never say no," the champion driver assured.