NEWS FROM THE VOLKSWAGEN RALLY TEAM 27/4/97 Volkswagen leads after dramatic Pirelli Volkswagen and Alister McRae maintain their overall lead in the Mobil 1 British Rally Championship after a dramatic finish this afternoon (Sun) to the ...
NEWS FROM THE VOLKSWAGEN RALLY TEAM 27/4/97 Volkswagen leads after dramatic Pirelli Volkswagen and Alister McRae maintain their overall lead in the Mobil 1 British Rally Championship after a dramatic finish this afternoon (Sun) to the Pirelli International Rally in Cumbria. As four of the leading crews including McRae struck problems on the 12th and final stage in the treacherous Kielder forests, Tapio Laukkanen and his Sony, Revolution Wheels and Pirelli-backed Golf GTI 16V fought through to claim second position. It was the 27-year-old Finn's best ever British Championship placing and gives Volkswagen a one-point lead over Ford in the manufacturers' title race. Said Tapio: ''Of course I am delighted with the result it's been a long time coming. We have been suffering brake problems today so we could have gone quicker. But I can't be too disappointed.'' But while there was joy for Laukkanen there was frustration for McRae, who went into the weekend's second and third rounds of the championship well in the lead of the drivers' fight. The 26-year-old from Lanark led the first four stages yesterday before a time-costly off into a ditch on the fifth. He fought back with a string of top-three times on this
morning's opening stages and, entering the final test, was duelling for the lead with Ford's Gwyndaf Evans. Evans was the first victim of the 15-mile Kershope stage, crashing out of the running and ending his hopes of overall victory. But McRae suffered too, falling foul of a deep ditch half a mile from the end of the stage and
losing several minutes. McRae and co-driver David Senior (Daventry) managed to extract their Golf and continued to finish the Sunday round of the championship in fifth place, ninth overall for the two days. Alister, brother of former World Champion Colin McRae, said: ''It was one of those things. I said before this rally that the Kielder ditches were
treacherous and unfortunately I have been proved right. However, I'm still in front in the championship and Volkswagen is still leading, and that's the main thing.'' McRae has 42 points, one more than Evans, Nissan's Mark Higgins and Renault's Robbie Head.
McRae and Evans were not the only drivers to suffer in Kershope: the stage also accounted for the SEAT of Finn Harri Rovanpera and the Renault of Martin Rowe. ''It was a very nasty stage,'' said Alister. ''Very
slippy. I'm not surprised so many people went off in it.'' Steve Bagnall, of Volkswagen's UK rally partner team SBG Sport of Daventry, said: ''Alister had very bad luck he could have picked up maximum championship points today. But we are delighted for Tapio, who drove exceptionally well under difficult circumstances and thoroughly deserves his second place. ''The best news is that Volkswagen still leads the British Championship as well as the World 2-litre Cup, and we shall strive to maintain that position.'' Next round of the Mobil 1 British Rally Championship is the Scottish International, June 6/7, based in Dumfries. RESULTS Pirelli International Rally Rounds 2&3, Mobil 1 British Championship, 27/4/97 1 Robbie Head (GB) / Bryan Thomas (GB) Renault Megane 2h 10m 14s 2 Tapio Laukkanen (SF) / Risto Mannisenmki Volkswagen Golf GTI 2h 12m 45s 3 Stig Blomqvist (S) / Benny Melander (S) Skoda Felicia 2h 13m 51s 4 Mark Higgins (GB) / Philip Mills (GB) Nissan Sunny 2h 15m 46s 5 Julian Reynolds (GB) / Paul Spooner (GB) Ford Escort 2h 19m 01s 9 Alister McRae (GB) / David Senior (GB) Volkswagen Golf GTI 2h 20m 46s CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS Manufacturers 1 Volkswagen, 24 points; 2 Ford, 23; 3 Nissan, 18; 4 Renault, 17, etc. Drivers 1 McRae, 42; =2 Gwyndaf Evans (GB/Ford), Higgins & Head, 41, etc. ----------- www.maxcom.demon.co.uk/vwrally.htm