Wales results

Rally of Wales, 15/3/97 VOLKSWAGEN VICTORIOUS IN WALES Alister McRae and the Volkswagen team this afternoon (Saty) staged a commanding victory in the opening round of the British Rally Championship, the Vauxhall Rally of Wales. McRae,...

Rally of Wales, 15/3/97

VOLKSWAGEN VICTORIOUS IN WALES Alister McRae and the Volkswagen team this afternoon (Saty) staged a commanding victory in the opening round of the British Rally Championship, the Vauxhall Rally of Wales. McRae, 26 and from Lanark, becomes the first driver in history to win the Rally of Wales three times. It was the maiden British Championship victory for Volkswagen. The Sony, Revolution Wheels and Pirelli-backed Golf GTI crossed the finish ramp more than a minute clear of reigning champion Gwyndaf Evans (Ford) after two days of competition. Mark Higgins took third place for Nissan. A jubilant McRae said: ''This is an excellent start to the championship. It's great for me, for Volkswagen, for Pirelli and all the boys who have done so much to make it possible. ''We didn't get much testing time before the rally, so I am sure we can go even quicker...'' McRae, brother of former World Champion Colin and son of five- time British Champion Jimmy, last won the Mobil 1 British Rally Championship in 1995, and hopes his Welsh victory will set him on course to regain the crown. ''It's too early to talk about the championship,'' he said, ''but obviously I couldn't have wished for a better start to the season.'' Co-driven by David Senior (Mereworth, Kent), McRae and the Golf - - which is prepared in the Daventry, Northants, workshops of SBG Sport -- took control of the rally on day one. But it was a dramatic three-way battle throughout between McRae, Evans and Higgins, with no fewer than five changes of lead over the 145 miles of special stages in the Welsh Forests. McRae made his move in the notoriously tricky Penmachno forest stages yesterday, pulling out a three-second advantage over Higgins, then strengthened his lead to seven seconds with a storming drive in front of 7000 spectators at New Brighton, Merseyside, on Friday evening. In the fog of mid-Wales this morning McRae and Higgins rejoined battle, separated by no more than 10 seconds at any stage -- until the Nissan driver fell foul of a ditch on Stage 13, Dyfi, and lost three minutes. Higgins slipped to third behind Evans, leaving McRae with a comfortable lead. Alister and the Golf GTI were never out of the top three on all 15 stages, and won four of them. Volkswagen Product Marketing Manager Nick Berry hailed McRae's victory as ''fantastic''. He added: ''We always had faith that the Golf GTI was a winner, and now Alister has proved it. He and SBG Sport have done a fantastic job.'' There was disappointment for McRae's team-mate, Flying Finn Tapio Laukkanen. For the third year in succession his Rally of Wales ended early; he clipped a log in the Penmachno forest on day one, breaking a driveshaft, and was late into service. Though the SBG Sport mechanics battled to get him back into the rally, Laukkanen was out of time and a promising top-10 run was over. ''It is a great shame because the car was running well and I'm sure we could have gone quicker...'' Volkswagen privateer Ashley Blenkhorn (Lincs) was in the wars also -- his clubman specification Golf GTI sheared a wheel stud in Stage 3 and put him out of the lead of the Amateur Driver Cup. There were plenty of casualties among the other drivers: Skoda's Stig Blomqvist crashed out on day one, while Harri Rovanpera (SEAT) saw his challenge go up in flames this morning and Peugeot's Justin Dale broke a driveshaft. The Renaults of Robbie Head and Martin Rowe suffered a catalogue of problems but limped to the finish. Alister McRae and the Volkswagen team have little time to celebrate their triumph -- next stop for the squad is next week's (Mar 23) Rally of Portugal, fourth round of the World Rally Championship. RESULTS Vauxhall Rally of Wales, 14-15/3/97 Mobil 1 British Rally Championship, round 1 1 Alister McRae (GB) / David Senior (GB), Volkswagen Golf GTI 16V, 2h 28m 48s; 2 Gwyndaf Evans (GB) / Howard Davies (GB), Ford Escort, 2h 30m 05s; 3 Mark Higgins (GB) / Philip Mills (GB), Nissan Sunny, 2h 31m 28s; 4 David Mann (GB) / Alun Cook (GB), Proton Persona, 2h 34m 13s; 5 David Higgins (GB) / Cliff Simmons (GB), Subaru Impreza, 2h 34m 38s; 6 Steve Petch (GB) / Peter Croft (GB), Subaru Impreza, 2h 41m 52s. CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS DRIVERS 1 McRae, 30 points; 2 Evans, 26; 3 Mark Higgins, 23; 4 Neil Wearden (GB/Honda), 21; 5 Philip Young (GB/Ford), 20; 6 Steve Wedgebury (GB/Skoda), 19, etc. MANUFACTURERS 1 Volkswagen, 16 points; 2 Ford, 12; 3 Nissan, 9; 4 Honda, 7; 5 Skoda, 6; 6 Renault, 5, etc. ----------------- www.maxcom.demon.co.uk/vwrally.htm

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