McRae and Volkswagen take victory in Portugal

Alister McRae and the Volkswagen team were this evening (Weds) celebrating their second international rally victory in as many weeks, having clinched a dramatic last-gasp World 2-litre Cup win on the Rally of Portugal, fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

McRae and his Sony, Revolution Wheels and Pirelli-backed Golf GTI 16V finished the arduous four-day event 48 seconds ahead of their nearest rival, Portuguese Adruzilo Lopes (Peugeot), to claim ninth position overall, first in the 2-litre category and the honour of finishing top British driver.

The victory gives Volkswagen a three-point World 2-litre championship lead. McRae and Volkswagen already head the British Championship after their Rally of Wales victory on March 15.

Lanark-based McRae, 26-year-old brother of former World Champion Colin McRae, fought a running battle with Lopes throughout the 1000-mile marathon, and with the SEAT of Finn Harri Rovanpera. Engine problems ended Rovanpera's threat this morning, and Alister set about reducing the 31-second gap between himself and Lopes; seven stage victories for the SIVA and Mobil-liveried Golf put the matter beyond doubt. McRae, co-driven by Daventry's David Senior, nosed in front three stages from the finish line.

It was a sweet victory for the Volkswagen squad and its rally partner team, SBG Sport of Daventry. SBG's Steve Bagnall said: "This event is one of the longest and hardest on the calendar, and we feel justifiably proud of what Alister and David have achieved. With Golf GTI victories on the Swedish Rally, the Rally of Wales, and now in Portugal, it looks as if things are starting to go our way."

Overall victor in Portugal was Finland's Tommi Makinen in a Mitsubishi. Colin McRae was an early victim of the tough event, his Subaru failing with engine problems. The other top Brit, Richard Burns (Mitsubishi) also retired.

Rally of Portugal FIA World Rally Championship, round 4, 23-26.3.97 Provisional finishing positions, World 2-litre Cup 1 Alister McRae (GB) / David Senior (GB) Volkswagen Golf GTI 16V, 5h 12m 54s; 2 Adruzilo Lopes (P) / Luis Lisboa (P) Peugeot 306 Maxi, 5h 13m 42s; 3 Erwin Weber (D) / Manfred Hiemer (D) SEAT Ibiza, 5h 18m 01s; 4 Pavel Sibera (CZ) / Petr Gross (CZ) Skoda Felicia, 5h 21m 37s. World 2-litre Cup points positions 1 Volkswagen, 24 points; 2 Skoda, 21; 3 SEAT, 13; 4 Proton, 10, etc.

----- Nick Carter Max Communications +44 1530 811882