Škoda Motorsport suffers the cruellest blow with a podium finish in sight Colin McRae retires from third place with just three stages to go Armin Schwarz secures his best result of the season on his final WRC drive.
Colin McRaes dream of getting the Škoda Fabia WRC 05 onto the podium of Rally Australia was shattered when a normally routine clutch change took longer than expected just three stages from the finish.
At the time the Scot was lying third and ready to push hard to try and také second place from Harri Rovanpera who had been dueling for the position with McRae for most of the rally.
Fears that the clutch might not survive the final three stages forced the team to replace it in service this morning. Unfortunately the change did not go to plan and the clock ticked away past McRaes permitted service time. Earlier in the event a similar change on Armins car took just 22 minutes, well within the time allowed.
Members of every rival team gathered to watch the drama unfold and when it was realised that the rally was over they burst into spontaneous applause in acknowledgement of McRaes drive to what might easily have been Škoda Motorsports best ever finish in the World Rally Championship.
The dramatic final morning allowed Armin Schwarz to finish eighth on his final appearance as a WRC driver, the best result of the season for the veteran German driver.
Colin McRae: This was a huge disappointment retiring so close to the end. We were confident of passing Harri for second place but it all came to nothing when what should have been a routine clutch change went wrong. These things can happen at any time and with any team but it was especially frustrating for it to happen just now. It was a good dream while it lasted. Ive proved a lot to myself and also a lot about the Fabia WRC 05 and I hope it will have a positive effect on the future of the team.
Armin Schwarz: Yesterday was fun but todays stages werent the best to end my career as a driver. It has been a tough year and I have to admit that my motivation hasnt been as high as it should.
Martin Muehlmeier (Head of Škoda Motorsport): To lose our best ever finish so close to the end was a real disappointment. Colin has driven superbly for us on the two events in GB and here in Australia and Armin has again brought more points for the team on his final event.