Champ Laukkanen joins McRae at Volkswagen
Volkswagen has added another champion name to its team for 1997 - that of reigning Finnish 2-litre Rally Champion Tapio Laukkanen, who will partner former British title-holder Alister McRae to form one of the strongest driver line-ups yet seen in the British Championship.
Laukkanen's signing gives the Sony, Revolution Wheels and Pirelli-backed team a driver pairing guaranteed to get the best from the latest, 280bhp "kit car" development of the Golf GTI.
Steve Bagnall, manager of Volkswagen's UK rally partner team SBG Sport, said: "I don't believe there are two quicker drivers in the British Championship, and to have signed them both for '97 is tremendously exciting. Alister and Tapio work well together, the new Golf has power to spare and I'm sure we're going to see some spectacular results..."
Laukkanen, 27, first rallied with Volkswagen in 1995 and last year completed his first full season in the UK with the team. In his native Finland he collected four class wins with the Golf GTI on his way to the 2-litre crown. His co-driver will be 37-year-old Risto Mannisenmäki.
Said Tapio: "After two years with the Golf and one full season in the UK, I think I have the experience now to win."
Lanark-based McRae, 26, joined Volkswagen in mid-'96 for a selected programme of events culminating in November's Network Q RAC Rally, where he gave the new "kit car" Golf GTI its competition debut. With co-driver David Senior, 32, McRae will be out to recapture the Mobil 1 British Rally Championship crown he won in 1995.
Alister - brother of former World Champion Colin and son of five-time British Champion Jimmy McRae - will, in addition to a full programme of UK events, contest several selected rounds of the World Championship, including next week's (Feb 7-10) Swedish Rally, the RAC Rally, the 1000 Lakes in Finland, Italy's famous San Remo Rally, plus others yet to be finalised.
First British outing for the duo will come on the Rally of Wales in March, where McRae will be bidding to complete a hat-trick of victories and Laukkanen will be seeking to re-create his 1994 Group N-winning form.
Official Volkswagen rally site www.maxcom.demon.co.uk/vwrally.htm