8 June 1999 McRae and Grist retire from Acropolis Rally A gritty and determined drive from Ford Martini World Rally Team pairing Colin McRae and Nicky Grist during today's second leg of the Acropolis Rally ended in disappointment when they...
8 June 1999
McRae and Grist retire from Acropolis Rally
A gritty and determined drive from Ford Martini World Rally Team pairing Colin McRae and Nicky Grist during today's second leg of the Acropolis Rally ended in disappointment when they were forced to retire their Ford Focus World Rally Car with a broken gearbox.
After leading overnight, McRae and Grist faced the considerable disadvantage of running as first car through today's demanding special stages in central Greece. They unwittingly swept the mountain roads clear of loose gravel, allowing those drivers behind to enjoy a much cleaner, and therefore potentially faster, run.
The 30-year-old Scottish driver slipped to fifth after the day's opening two stages but refused to allow those ahead to stretch their advantage. He fought hard to close the gap again on leader Richard Burns and had climbed to fourth as the rally entered the penultimate stage of the day, the 10.77km Kitheronas 2.
During the test the car's gearbox, which had been jumping out of third during the early afternoon stages, suddenly lost all gears with the exception of first. McRae struggled to the finish, losing three minutes, but with another stage to complete and a long liaison section, there was no choice other than to retire.
"We were about 3km into the test when we were left with nothing except first," said McRae. "It's really disappointing because the stages remaining had all been used before and so will be clear of gravel and I think we would still have been in with a good chance tomorrow. We worked hard to stay close to the drivers ahead. We'd taken time back on them and our only bad stage was number 13 when there was just so much gravel on the roads."
Ford Martini team director Malcolm Wilson admitted he was surprised by the gearbox trouble. "We've never had a problem before like this. Colin lost all the gears from second to sixth which made it impossible for him to continue. He's been driving very hard and has done superbly considering his position on the road today. We're sorry that it's not worked out but we'll work hard between now and the next round in New Zealand to prevent a repeat of this."
News from our Rivals
Today's leg was expected to be the hardest of the four-day rally - and so it proved. Apart from McRae, two other frontrunners retired. First to go was Juha Kankkunen, who went out with broken suspension on his Subaru on stage 12 when lying third.
Then Piero Liatti crashed his Seat into retirement on the final stage when in fifth - ironically on the same stage as team-mate Harri Rovanpera crashed yesterday. Kankkunen's team-mate, Richard Burns, has controlled the leg from the front. Having gambled yesterday by deliberately incurring time penalties to allow him to run further down the order on cleaner roads, he bounced straight back into the lead on today's first stage. Minor transmission troubles and a double puncture on the penultimate stage hardly troubled him - he went on to set fastest time on the last test with a punctured tyre kept in full working order by the anti-deflation mousse. Second-placed Carlos Sainz (Toyota) had nothing to worry about apart from one puncture while third-placed Tommi Makinen (Mitsubishi) suffered three punctures on the opening stage and struggled through the final two tests with a front differential problem. Team-mate Freddy Loix lies fourth, despite damaging his car badly against some logs. Francois Delecour (Peugeot) lost time with suspension problems on the final stage in addition to two punctures earlier in the afternoon. Armin Schwarz (Skoda) fell back after rolling early this morning and turbo problems cost him more time this afternoon. He lies 15th.
The final leg is a repeat of the first two-thirds of yesterday's opening leg. Drivers leave Agii Theodori at 09.00 for an anti-clockwise loop of the mountains north-west of Athens, returning to the coast for the finish at Megara Circuit at 16.30. They will tackle five more stages covering around 90km. As on Leg 1, the Pateras test has been shortened from 25.93km to 7.52km to avoid the exceptionally rough tracks.
Leaderboard after Leg 2 1. R Burns/R Reid GB Subaru Impreza 3hr 18min 27.7sec 2. C Sainz/L Moya E Toyota Corolla 3hr 18min 44.9sec 3. T Makinen/R Mannisenmaki FIN Mitsubishi Lancer 3hr 19min 02.8sec 4. F Loix/S Smeets B Mitsubishi Carisma 3hr 20min 11.5sec 5. F Delecour/D Grataloup F Peugeot 206 3hr 22min 56.2sec 6. M Martin/T Kitsing EE Toyota Corolla 3hr 25min 00.1sec 7. L Kirkos/J Stavropoulos GR Ford Escort 3hr 28min 44.1sec 8. T Arai/R Freeman J Subaru Impreza 3hr 29min 08.3sec 9. A Bakhashab/M Park SA Toyota Corolla 3hr 29min 47.6sec 10 L Climent/A Romani E Subaru Impreza 3hr 29min 53.3sec