McRae Looks To Consolidate Series Lead

Colin McRae is not "desperate" to win the Rally of New Zealand which starts on Friday week (July 24) like some of his world championship rivals are going to be. With co-driver Nicky Grist, McRae has a five point lead in the driver's series going...

Colin McRae is not "desperate" to win the Rally of New Zealand which starts on Friday week (July 24) like some of his world championship rivals are going to be. With co-driver Nicky Grist, McRae has a five point lead in the driver's series going into the 400 kms of special stages which finish on Monday 27 July.

So far this season the Subaru pairing, who are the top seeds fro the event, have won three rounds of the series in Portugal, Corsica and Greece, more victories than any of their rivals have managed.

"We need another good result," said McRae. "That would help take some of the pressure off for the final few events in the series. But we're not desperate for a win."

McRae, the 1995 World Champion, expects competition to be closer than ever in New Zealand, mirroring the nail biting finishes to several other rounds of the series this year, where events have decided by less than five seconds.

"When we've won we've had to go at 100 and a bit percent," said McRae. "All the rallies are so fast now and the cars are so evenly matched because of the World Rally Car rules."

Testing on back country roads closed to other traffic this week is focusing on a number of new parts to get more speed from the Subaru Impreza. The most significant is a new rear differential which has already shown promise in testing in Finland last week.

"We're just trying to fine tune things to get that little bit extra out of the car," said McRae.

Starting this Sunday, McRae and Grist, along with all the other competing crews will spend four days driving over the stages, making and checking their pace notes.

He believes the pace at the front of the field will see a number of drivers battling for major positions. "Carlos (Sainz) is always there and Tommi (Makinen) needs to get 10 points to get his title defence back on track." Makinen, the defending world champion, currently lies third equal with Juha Kankkunen, 12 points behind McRae.

McRae also rates Richard Burns, Kankkunen and Didier Auriol. "There's not just two of three people you've got to watch."

Under such circumstances tactics are a thing of the past. "You can't take it easy for a few stages at the start. You're got to go as quick as possible and then go even faster!"

Over the next fortnight, McRar will certainly not be worrying about who he will be driving for next year. Apart from Subaru, he has also had offers from Ford and Peugeot.

"Nothing is sorted yet. It could take another couple of months," said McRae. "After missing the championship by one point last year, I want to concentrate on that."

BY JOHN COKER

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Series Other rally
Drivers Colin McRae , Richard Burns , Didier Auriol , Juha Kankkunen , Nicky Grist