New Zealand Rally Preview

28th Rally of New Zealand. Official Site: http://www.rallynz.org.nz Unofficial Site: http://www.sportsweb.co.nz/rally98/ [Headlines] [Driver shake-up for 1999] [Event changes for ...

28th Rally of New Zealand. Official Site: http://www.rallynz.org.nz Unofficial Site: http://www.sportsweb.co.nz/rally98/

[Headlines] [Driver shake-up for 1999] [Event changes for 1999]


Headlines - McRae moves to Ford - Burns tipped to move to Subaru - Loix tipped to move to Mitsubishi

Tomorrow: Rally of New Zealand Background info and team press releases


During the mid-season break of the World Rally Championship, much has happened that will decide the future of rallying in 1998 and 1999.

It's about this time of the year teams start to make moves of either retaining the services of their current drivers, releasing one or both and procuring new blood. The big talk leading up to Rally of New Zealand is Colin McRae's move to Ford.

According to reliable sources Colin will drive the new Ford Focus in the 1999 WRC. If he does leave, he will most certainly take his current co-driver Nicky Grist with him to Ford. No one is quite sure what sort of money tempted Colin away from Subaru, but it certainly must have been substantial for the Scot. With Colin's exit and no word on Pierro Liatti's future, the feeling is the spare seat at Subaru will be offered to Richard Burns, who left the team for Mitsubishi at the end of 1995.

Following this, the spare seat at Mitsubishi is most likely to be filled by Freddy Loix. Harry Rovanpera has been tipped for a WRC drive, but with Seat in the development stages of their own WRC car it's unlikely he'll leave without testing the new vehicle.

With Kankkunen contracted to the end of 1999 it's clear who will move aside for Colin at Ford. Even on results alone, you would have to pick Thiry. It has also been confirmed that Ari Vatanen will be competing on this year's Neste Rally Finland in an M-Sport-prepared Escort World Rally car. The ex-world champion replaced Bruno Thiry earlier this year in the FIA World Rally Championship when the Belgian driver was injured. Vatanen, from Finland has competed on his home rally 19 times and won it twice.

TTE looks to be unchanged for 1999 with Sainz and Auriol both with safe seats. Indeed Sainz has a vested interest in TTE and is tipped to eventually take over from Ove Andersson once he believes his WRC driving days are over.


1999 Events.

In a vote by fax, the World Motor Sport Council cancelled the 1998 Rally of Indonesia from the 1998 FIA World Rally Championship calendar, due to the current situation in Indonesia and difficulties with transportation of material for the competing teams.

This should not prejudice the candidature of the Rally of Indonesia for the 1999 FIA World Rally Championship. But with China almost certain to be included in the 1999 calender, Indonesia are feeling understandably uncomfortable at the moment. Sources tell us that Portugal is most likely event to be dropped from the 1999 calendar. Safety (or lack of it) was thought to be the main issue involved in the decision to remove Portugal from the next season.

Because it wasn't possible to replace the Rally of Indonesia with the reserve event (China Rally - Beijing 19-22 June), drivers have one less event to gain vital championship points.


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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Colin McRae , Freddy Loix , Richard Burns , Nicky Grist , Ari Vatanen
Teams M-Sport