McRAE WINS IN GREECE TO TAKE CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD Victory secures 555 Subaru the lead in the Manufacturers' Championship - 9 June, 21:08 +0200 An exciting showdown was guaranteed on the 1998 Acropolis Rally but few would have ...
McRAE WINS IN GREECE TO TAKE CHAMPIONSHIP LEAD
Victory secures 555 Subaru the lead in the Manufacturers' Championship - 9 June, 21:08 +0200 An exciting showdown was guaranteed on the 1998 Acropolis Rally but few would have predicted the dramas that unfolded on the final five stages today. The 555 Subaru World Rally Team crew of Colin McRae and Nicky Grist took victory for the second time in Greece, and the third time this year, snatching the lead from Didier Auriol. In contrast, Italian team-mates Piero Liatti and Fabrizia Pons suffered a major set-back when they spun on the penultimate stage and lost fourth position. The top six positions on the leaderboard changed from stage to stage as Carlos Sainz suffered with power steering problems (SS14), Richard Burns retired with broken suspension (SS15) and Piero Liatti lost time when he spun on the same stage Didier Auriol was forced to stop when the engine cut out (SS16), costing him forty seconds and the lead. Colin's victory in Greece has put him on top of the Drivers' Championship with a healthy five point lead over Carlos Sainz, and Subaru now take the lead in the FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers. Looking ahead to the next World Championship event in New Zealand, it is "McRae territory" and with three victories from four outings, the Scot is likely to consolidate his position as the series heads towards its November climax.
Today's five stages were an exact duplication of yesterday's route and, as the whole field had run through these roads, the conditions today proved to be much cleaner, harder and faster. Tyre wear caused much consternation for the Michelin-shod teams as all the leading contenders, with the exception of the Pirelli equipped Subarus, came into service with worn out rubber earlier today. But, as the morning's events unfolded, everyone bar McRae suffered their own highs and lows. Colin however stuck to the script, unfazed by the misfortunes of those around him and set fastest time on three consecutive stages to take the lead and victory. "Today has been unbelievable!" said Colin. "To be honest I wasn't overly confident this would be the outcome at the finish because everyone has been so close and there are four different crews who could have won this morning. But we took it easy on some stages and judged the situation finely and came out on top - that's what counts. As we start the second half of the season it's a great feeling to be leading both Championships and we can look ahead to New Zealand with real optimism." A highly-competitive performance by Piero Liatti on only his second outing in Greece resulted in a major set-back on the penultimate stage of the rally. Lying in a comfortable fourth position, the Italian suffered a spin and lost nearly ten minutes as they struggled to retrieve the car. "The front end of the car went into a ditch and bottomed out so it was not possible to immediately move the car," said Piero. "We had to dig a hole to put the jack in and put some stones under the front wheels before we could move. By the time we had done this we had lost nearly ten minutes. It is obviously disappointing but I still feel good because we were very competitive all the way." But for Piero's advantage over double World Champion Carlos Sainz and Toyota driver Freddy Loix, he would undoubtedly have dropped further down the leaderboard than sixth. While the regular World Championship contenders now take a four-week break from the series, the 555 Subaru World Rally Team are heading straight to Asia for the 555 China Rally (19-22 June), round 2 of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship. With an emphatic 1-2 there last year, the team are confident of victory with the Subaru Impreza 555 World Rally Cars in the hands of Colin McRae and Piero Liatti. DRIVER CAR TOTAL TIME DIFF STAGES WON 1 Colin McRae Subaru Impreza 555 WRC98 22.214.171.124 5,8,15,16 2 Didier Auriol Toyota Corolla World Rally Car 126.96.36.199 20.0 6,13,14 3 Juha Kankkunen Ford Escort World Rally Car 188.8.131.52 44.3 3 4 Carlos Sainz Toyota Corolla World Rally Car 4.28.09.3 1.37.7 10,11,12,17 5 Freddy Loix Toyota Corolla World Rally Car 184.108.40.206 2.48.4 9 6 Piero Liatti Subaru Impreza 555 WRC98 220.127.116.11 10.46.4 7 Rui Madeira Toyota Corolla World Rally Car 4.39.01.8 12.30.2 8 Leonidas Kirkos Ford Escort World Rally Car 18.104.22.168 14.01.9 9 Jean-Pierre Richelmi Subaru Impreza 555 22.214.171.124 15.20.9 10 Volkan Isik Toyota Celica GT-4 126.96.36.199 17.06.7 Bruno Thiry (Ford) won SS1 and SS4; Richard Burns won SS7; SS2 was cancelled