WRC

Tour of Corsica - Leg 3

McRae takes fourth after TV drama in Corsica Ford Martini World Rally team drivers Colin McRae and Nicky Grist finished fourth and second FIA World Rally Championship contenders on the Tour of Corsica which finished in Ajaccio this afternoon.

McRae takes fourth after TV drama in Corsica

Ford Martini World Rally team drivers Colin McRae and Nicky Grist finished fourth and second FIA World Rally Championship contenders on the Tour of Corsica which finished in Ajaccio this afternoon. The result ensured that McRae remains in third in the drivers' championship, maintaining the pressure on the top two. Ford Martini retain third in the manufacturers' standings.

McRae, driving a Ford Focus World Rally Car, was involved in a dramatic showdown for third position with Carlos Sainz during the final special stage, televised live internationally. Having overhauled Sainz by beating the Spaniard on each of the first four asphalt mountain stages today, McRae started the final 13.82km test with a slender advantage of just 0.2 sec over his rival.

The 30-year-old Scot was confident of extending that advantage in the baking hot temperatures which again characterised the third and final leg. However, a freak gear selection problem at a vital point of the stage cost the handful of seconds that enabled Sainz to move back ahead.

"We were very unlucky," explained McRae. "I went to change gear from third to second and the gear jammed in neutral. It was a very tight corner and with no control over the car we went into a half spin. I had to spin the car around before we could continue. Afterwards we kept pushing hard to see if we could make up the time or in case Carlos had a problem, but it wasn't to be.

"But overall it's been a good rally. We've learned a lot about the Focus on this type of surface and when you consider we were the fastest four-wheel drive car yesterday, it shows how much we have moved forward on this rally," he added.

Ford Martini team director Malcolm Wilson was greatly encouraged by McRae's performance. "It was a pity about the time loss on the final stage but Colin drove very solidly and with great maturity. He was under a lot of pressure to try to catch Carlos but he didn't panic. He steadily reeled him in and timed his challenge to perfection."

Simon Jean-Joseph and Fred Gallagher, driving the second Ford Martini car, posted 10th fastest time after returning to the action on the final televised stage following their first day retirement. That stage marked the beginning of a new era for the sport. International television coverage and additional championship points to the fastest three drivers and registered manufacturers was a first. It is planned that all championship rounds will end with this type of stage by 2001.

News from our Rivals

Philippe Bugalski enjoyed an untroubled final leg to claim his second consecutive win, with Jesus Puras providing a 1-2 for Citroen. Carlos Sainz inherited third after McRae's problem, the Scot the sandwich between Sainz and Toyota team-mate Didier Auriol. Tommi Makinen emerged from a difficult event to claim the final drivers' point, Mitsubishi's world championship leader winning his final day battle with Richard Burns (Subaru). Burns' team-mate Bruno Thiry retired after the penultimate stage with damaged rear suspension after crashing while Francois Delecour stopped on the final stage with an electrical problem, ensuring neither of the new Peugeots finished after Gilles Panizzi's retirement yesterday. The additional points awarded to the fastest drivers over the final televised special stage went to Auriol (3pts), Makinen (2pts) and Sainz (1pt).

Next round

The FIA World Rally Championship contenders have little time to pause for breath during this most hectic part of the season. They next make their only trip to South America for the Rally Argentina, based in Cordoba from 22 - 25 May. After two asphalt events in succession, drivers must acclimatise to rough gravel tracks again.

Final positions 1. P Bugalski/J-P Chiaroni F Citroen Xsara 3hr 44min 35.7sec 2. J Puras/M Marti E Citroen Xsara 3hr 45min 10.4sec 3. C Sainz/L Moya E Toyota Corolla 3hr 45min 45.0sec 4. C McRae/N Grist GB Ford Focus 3hr 45min 53.8sec 5. D Auriol/D Giraudet F Toyota Corolla 3hr 46min 08.3sec 6. T Makinen/R Mannisenmaki FIN Mitsubishi Lancer 3hr 47min 26.1sec 7. R Burns/R Reid GB Subaru Impreza 3hr 47min 42.6sec 8. F Loix/S Smeets B Mitsubishi Carisma 3hr 50min 27.3sec 9. P Liatti/C Cassina I Seat WRC 3hr 51min 41.6sec 10 T Laukkanen/K Lindstrom FIN Renault Megane 3hr 54min 32.8sec

1999 FIA World Rally Championship (after round 6 of 14) Drivers Manufacturers 1. T Makinen 29pts 1. Toyota 61pts 2. D Auriol 28pts 2. Mitsubishi 38pts 3. C McRae 23pts 3. Ford 34pts 4. C Sainz 21pts 4. Subaru 20pts 5. P Bugalski 20pts 5. Seat 8pts 6. J Kankkunen 8pts

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