McRae retires but Solberg finishes in points Colin McRae and Nicky Grist's hopes of victory on the Rally Argentina ended this morning when the Ford Martini pair retired their Ford Focus World Rally Car from third position on the opening...
McRae retires but Solberg finishes in points
Colin McRae and Nicky Grist's hopes of victory on the Rally Argentina ended this morning when the Ford Martini pair retired their Ford Focus World Rally Car from third position on the opening special stage of the final leg. A broken oil pump drive belt sidelined the Britons who were in the midst of a thrilling three-car battle for victory at the start of the day.
Ford team-mates Petter Solberg and Phil Mills finished sixth in another Focus on this sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship to preserve the team's record of a driver scoring points on every championship round to date.
McRae stopped 11km into the 24.60km speed test from Chamico to Ambul. It was the longest of the six rough and rocky stages, held in rain and thick fog, comprising the final leg in the mountains of Traslasierra, west of Cordoba.
Ford Martini team director Malcolm Wilson said the broken belt related to an incident yesterday when a rough river crossing ripped away the radiator protection and the rear of the sump guard on McRae's Focus. The 31-year-old Scot had to drive for almost two stages before repairs could be made and it is believed a stone found its way into the engine and damaged the belt.
"We were all set for a big battle today but it wasn't to be," said McRae. "I think we all knew this tough final day would cause problems for someone and unfortunately it was me. I'm not sure whether I would have caught Richard but I think I could have taken second place and that would have been excellent.
"We came into this rally full of confidence after our win in Catalunya and with Carlos leading and myself in third after the first leg, that confidence was justified. Once again the pace of the Focus was clear for all to see and it's a shame that a fluke incident like this should put me out," he added.
Solberg and Mills drove quickly but cautiously all day, but even then conditions were such that they spun twice and also clipped a tree on the opening two tests. Their reward was a third points scoring finish of the season.
"It was so foggy that all I wanted was to get to the finish," said Solberg, who set three top five stage times during the leg. "That last stage was the worst I've ever driven. It was narrow, rocky and treacherously slippery and I drove slowly because I didn't want to spoil things right at the end. My orders were to finish and carry out development work so to take points as well is a bonus."
Wilson was delighted with Solberg's performance. "Petter was making his debut here on one of the most technically difficult rallies in the championship and was here to learn. He's been testing many development parts on the car and the data we've gained from that will stand us in good stead for next month's Acropolis Rally. We're obviously disappointed with Colin's retirement this morning as the team was really looking forward to a big battle today."
News from our Rivals
Richard Burns (Subaru) completed his third win in four rallies, adding another four stage victories today. His total for the rally was 13 from 21 stages and his winning margin over Marcus Grönholm (Peugeot) was 1min 07.4sec. It was not all straight forward for the Briton today though, as he went off the road in thick fog three stages from the finish and an overheating engine caused more concerns. The fight for the final podium place was effectively decided on the day's first stage when Juha Kankkunen (Subaru) went off the road into some trees, the time loss dropping him behind Tommi Mäkinen (Mitsubishi). Mäkinen's team-mate Freddy Loix took fifth, despite a number of spins and near-misses. Alister McRae (Hyundai) scored the team's first ever championship point by finishing behind the unregistered Solberg, despite a broken engine rack and gearbox dramas which incurred additional time penalties as repairs were made.
The FIA World Rally Championship returns to Europe for round seven next month when Itea hosts Greece's Acropolis Rally on 9 - 11 June. Searing temperatures and very rough gravel tracks will be the main challenges facing teams.
<pre> Provisional final positions 1. R Burns/R Reid GB Subaru Impreza 4hr 10min 20.7sec 2. M Gronholm/T Rautiainen FIN Peugeot 206 4hr 11min 28.1sec 3. T Mäkinen/R Mannisenmaki FIN Mitsubishi Lancer 4hr 11min 52.3sec 4. J Kankkunen/J Repo FIN Subaru Impreza 4hr 12min 43.5sec 5. F Loix/S Smeets B Mitsubishi Carisma 4hr 18min 54.3sec 6. P Solberg/P Mills N Ford Focus 4hr 21min 20.3sec 7. A McRae/D Senior GB Hyundai Accent 4hr 23min 38.5sec 8. K Eriksson/S Parmander S Hyundai Accent 4hr 30min 55.8sec 9. G Trelles/J Del Buono ROU Mitsubishi Lancer 4hr 32min 00.2sec 10. G Pozzo/R Amelio Ortiz RA Mitsubishi Lancer 4hr 33min 01.1sec
2000 FIA World Rally Championship (after round 6 of 14) Drivers 1. R Burns 38pts 2. M Grönholm 24pts 3. T Mäkinen 23pts 4. C Sainz 17pts 5. C McRae 14pts 6. J Kankkunen 14pts
Manufacturers 1. Subaru 54pts 2. Ford 31pts 3. Mitsubishi 29pts 3. Peugeot 29pts 5. Seat 7pts 6. Skoda 5pts