NEWS FROM THE VOLKSWAGEN RALLY TEAM 13/9/97 VOLKSWAGEN WINS BRITISH RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Volkswagen has won the 1997 British Rally Championship. After a hard-fought season which brought two rally victories for Golf GTI driver Alister McRae,...
NEWS FROM THE VOLKSWAGEN RALLY TEAM 13/9/97
VOLKSWAGEN WINS BRITISH RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP Volkswagen has won the 1997 British Rally Championship. After a hard-fought season which brought two rally victories for Golf GTI driver Alister McRae, the team this afternoon (Saty) clinched the manufacturers' championship on the Isle of Man. But it was not McRae who sealed Volkswagen's brilliant championship win: Tapio Laukkanen finished the job for the Sony, Revolution Wheels and Pirelli-backed team with third place in the Manx International Rally, final round of the Mobil 1 British Rally Championship. McRae, who had led the drivers' championship all season and won both the Welsh and Scottish Rallies, missed his chance of recapturing the crown he last won in 1995 when he rolled his car out of the rally yesterday. Laukkanen and co-driver Risto Mannisenmaki endured few problems on their way to a solid third place in the Manx. Most serious was a puncture on stage 13 which cost them around three-and-a-half minutes. At the Douglas seafront finish ramp, Volkswagen's Finnish pairing were 13 minutes behind rally winner Martin Rowe's Renault. Mark Higgins was second today, earning him victory in the drivers' championship. Said Tapio, 27: "Third place here was an excellent result for me. This was only my third full championship rally on tarmac, so I'm delighted. And to help win the championship for Volkswagen is a great honour..." Steve Bagnall of Volkswagen's UK rally partner team SBG Sport of Daventry said: "I'm probably the happiest man on the Isle of Man today. This place has dealt the team some cruel blows in the past but this more than makes up for it." Volkswagen Group UK's marketing development manager Nick Berry congratulated Tapio, Alister and SBG Sport: "This is history in the making for Volkswagen in the UK and naturally we're all extremely pleased by the result. Alister and Tapio and their team- mates have driven brilliantly all year and SBG Sport has prepared a superb car. Our commiserations to Alister, who had done everything to deserve the drivers' championship..." McRae's accident came on the second of Friday's stages. Lanark- based Alister, 26, and his co-driver David Senior (Daventry) were unhurt in the crash, which happened after a bad landing from a jump on a flat-out straight. Their car was virtually destroyed. "It got a wheel on the grass, slid and then rolled into a gatepost," said McRae, who was fourth overall at the time of the crash and eating into the leaders' advantage. Though naturally disappointed at losing out on the drivers' title, Alister praised Higgins' success: "Mark drove a great rally and he deserves the championship. Even if he did win only one event this year while I won two!" Colne's Neil Simpson and his Egremont-based co-driver Steven Martin enjoyed a superb debut for the Volkswagen team, surviving an off which wrecked a wheel on stage 12 and a puncture near the end of stage 29 to haul his Dunlop-shod Golf GTI up from 12th place at the end of the rally's first leg on Thursday to fifth at the Douglas seafront finish on Saturday afternoon. "It's been a great rally for us," said Neil. "I was apprehensive because I'd had so little time in the car beforehand, but it's worked out well. I'm delighted to be part of the championship-winning team." Ashley Blenkhorn (Louth) and his co-driver Greg Haynes (Oakham) repeated their Scottish Rally success by winning the Amateur Cup in their 'clubman' Golf GTI. They finished 11th overall and top amateur crew by a margin of nearly two minutes, giving them third position overall in the amateur championship. RESULTS Manx International Rally -- Final round, Mobil 1 British Championship, 11-13.9.97 1 Martin Rowe (GB) / Nicky Beech (GB) Renault Megane 3h 40m 08s; 2 Mark Higgins (GB) / Philip Mills (GB) Nissan Sunny 3h 41m 13s; 3 Tapio Laukkanen (SF)/Risto Mannisenmaki (SF) Volkswagen Golf GTI 16V 3h 53m 28s; 4 Julian Reynolds (GB) / Steve Harris (GB) Ford Escort 3h 56m 37s; 5 Neil Simpson (GB) / Steven Martin (GB) Volkswagen Golf GTI 16V 4h 00m 14s FINAL CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS Manufacturers: 1 Volkswagen, 71 points; 2 Nissan, 69; 3 Renault, 67; 4 Ford, 66; 5 Skoda, 47; 6 SEAT, 47; 7 Peugeot, 45; 8 Honda, 40. Drivers: 1 Higgins, 122; 2 Rowe, 112; 3 Alister McRae (Volkswagen), 107; 4 Gwyndaf Evans (Ford), 105; 5 Robbie Head (Renault), 99; 6 Laukkanen, 91, etc.
-- Volkswagen rally team www.maxcom.demon.co.uk/vwrally.htm