WRC

Rallye De Portugal: Team Reports, standings

1999 Rally De Portugal Official Site: http://www.tap-rallyedeportugal.pt Round 4 of the 1999 FIA World Rally Championship 20-24 March Next Rally: Rally Catalunya-Costa Brava, 18-21 ...

1999 Rally De Portugal Official Site: http://www.tap-rallyedeportugal.pt Round 4 of the 1999 FIA World Rally Championship 20-24 March

Next Rally: Rally Catalunya-Costa Brava, 18-21 April

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Scot Colin McRae and Welsh co-driver Nicky Grist gave the new Ford Focus its second victory in a row today, when they came first at the end of the 32nd TAP Rallye de Portugal, fourth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, which finished at Matosinho (Porto).

McRae had taken the lead on the first stage and maintained it to the last, despite a furious charge from Spaniard Carlos Sainz and Frenchman Didier Auriol of Toyota, who challenged him to the very last metre of the 1768-kilometre race.

The Portuguese event, run on gravel surfaces, had conditions changing from the smooth sandy, fast flowing roads of the North (Ponte de Lima, Cabeceiras de Basto), to the twisty, rocky, car-wrecking tracks of the South (Arganil, Salgueiro. It has been quite testing: only 55 of the 117 competitors who left the starting ramp on Sunday have reached today's finish line, the others having been sidelined by accidents or mechanical failures.

As always, spectators turned out in their thousands to watch their heroes in action in the sun and in the thick dust, but the safety measures taken by the organisers worked properly and, despite the cancellation of yesterday's last two stages, the flock of enthusiastic people was well in control.

The result lifts McRae to second place, two points adrift of Makinen in the FIA Drivers' Championship, while 2nd and 3rd for Sainz and Auriol has consolidated Toyota's advantage at the top of the Manufacturers World Championship. The level of competition shown so far, with the current form of the new Ford, the undeniable potential of the Mitsubishis and the consistency of the Toyota pair, mean that rally fan can look forward to a tremendous fight for both titles over the coming events,

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Ford Martini

"This is a great victory for the Focus on its first real gravel rally," said 30-year-old McRae, for whom this was his 18th world championship triumph. "We really won the rally during the first leg when we knew we had to make the most of the good conditions. We drove hard through those fast stages as we knew the technical stages later in the rally, where the road conditions were not so good, would be more difficult.

"It's been much harder than many of my other victories but the Focus has performed faultlessly. For the car to be this quick on gravel means it can also be this good on asphalt so I think the rest of the season could be well worth waiting for. It's incredible for a car to be so successful so early in its lifetime and with further development it can only improve," added the 1995 world champion.

Malcolm Wilson: "We'll now look at restructuring our strategy for the next four rallies. We'll run only two cars on those events and put everything into helping Colin's chances of winning the drivers' series before assessing things after the Acropolis Rally in June."

Further, Colin McRae will test drive a Stewart Formula One car later this year and could ultimately make the switch to Grand Prix racing. "He will be given a free run to go out and see what he can do," Ford rally team spokesman Mark Wilford said on Tuesday during the Portuguese Rally. "It's an open thing - we'll put him in a Formula One car and see what happens."

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Toyota Team Castrol

Toyota extend lead in Championship with two podium places

Carlos Sainz / Luis Moya and Didier Auriol / Denis Giraudet recorded second and third positions respectively for the Toyota Castrol Team at the conclusion of the 32nd Rallye de Portugal.

Sainz: "We have had no problems today, everything was fine, just that the roads were quite dirty for us," said Carlos. "It is very difficult to say if we could have caught Colin (McRae) if we had run the two stages last night -- who knows? I never doubt his ability to be competitive, but I was surprised by their performance in the first rally on a proper gravel surface. Looking ahead to Spain though, we have been working hard testing on tarmac and I hope we can really fight again for victory."

Adding to his drivers' comments, Ove Andersson, President of Toyota Motorsport said: "It's a very good result for Toyota and obviously we are delighted to have extended our lead in the Championship. Both Carlos and Didier have been very competitive and the new engines have performed well in their first outing."

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Subaru World Rally Team

After a 350 competitive kilometre itinerary through the northern provinces of Portugal, Subaru's Richard Burns found an extra reserve of competitive spirit and performance from his Impreza WRC99 today to hold off a challenge from the reigning World Rally Champion, Tommi Makinen

Without the realistic opportunity to close on the Toyotas ahead, today's strategy was to realise the important Championship points for fourth place and keep the Mitsubishi of Makinen at bay. With a mature and tactical drive, Burns returned to Oporto this afternoon with the reward he deserved for an intelligent balance of attack that resulted in a string of fastest stage times, and a defensive posture when required.

Richard Burns "I am very happy to have held off Tommi's late charge today. Robert and I have worked extremely hard for this fourth place, and there was no way I was going to give it up. Today - pretty much like the whole rally, really - has been about driving very quickly and with absolute determination.

Bruno Thiry "I found today quite difficult and stressful after yesterday's accident, and my first ambition was to finish at all costs, so outright speed was not my main concern"

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Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart

Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart driver Tommi Makinen has retained his lead in the 1999 FIA World Rally Championship. He finished the fourth round of the Championship, the Rally of Portugal in fifth place after a spectacular drive in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.

"The car has gone very well today and our Michelin tyres have been very good, but there were just too few stages left for us to get fourth place. I think fifth is good on this tough rally. We are still leading the championship, which is the most important thing", said the triple World Champion.

"It was always going to be a struggle for Tommi to take fourth today. There was always a small chance, but cancelling two stages yesterday made it almost impossible. We were happy with the performance of the car and Tommi was very quick yesterday and today. Winning could have been very much on the cards, had it not been for our problems on the first day." declared Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart team manager Phil Short.

Mitsubishi has long excelled in the Group N production category and collected the top two places thanks to a scintillating drive from Portugal's rising star Miguel Campos. Triple World Champion Gustavo Trelles from Uruguay finished second, driving another Lancer Evolution.

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Hyundai World Rally Team

The Hyundai Motor Sport World Rally Team celebrated the first anniversary of its entry into the World Rally Championship with a crushing one-two victory in Formula 2 on the 1999 Tap-Rallye de Portugal. Alister McRae took class victory, closely followed by team-mate Kenneth Eriksson.

Said McRae, "It's a great result for me personally and of course, for the whole team. We've proved the Coupe is a quick car and as Portugal is such a tough event and with victory coming on the anniversary of Hyundai's world championship debut, it makes this win all the sweeter."

Kenneth Eriksson, was also ecstatic about the result: "This is a very important victory for the team. It's been a great rally with no problems - we've just changed tyres and filled the car with fuel and it's run like a train! The speed the car held down over the last stages was simply amazing - it's been great."

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1999 FIA World Rally Championship: Manufacturers Classification after Rallye De Portugal

Toyota                33
Ford                28
Mitsubishi        22
Subaru                13
Seat                7

1999 FIA World Rally Championship: Drivers Classification after Rallye De Portugal

Makinen                22
McRae                20
Auriol                17
Sainz                16
Kankkunen        7
Burns                5

1999 FIA World Rally Championship: Drivers of Production Cars Classification after Rallye De Portugal

Trelles                17 
Al Wahaibi        13 
Duez                13 
Puhakka                13 
Campos                13

1999 FIA World Rally Championship: 2L World Cup for Manufacturers Classification after Rallye De Portugal

Renault         26
Hyundai         26
Volkswagen         16

1999 FIA World Rally Championship: FIA Teams Cup Classification after Rallye De Portugal

F. Dor Rally Team (F)                 14 
Turning Point Rally Team (PL)         10
Toyota Mobil Team Turkey (TR)         10
Valencia Terra Mar(E)                 10

------------------------------------------------------------- From: "Cynan 'Dusty' Rhodes" <cynan@harvestroad.com.au>

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Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Miguel Campos , Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Richard Burns , Didier Auriol , Alister McRae , Kenneth Eriksson , Luis Moya , Nicky Grist , Denis Giraudet , Malcolm Wilson