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Welcome to the 48th running of Neste Rally of Finland, 10th round of 1998 FIA World Rally Championship. With what is commonly known as the 'silly season' well and truly underway, we thought it timely to bring you up to date with recent ...

Welcome to the 48th running of Neste Rally of Finland, 10th round of 1998 FIA World Rally Championship.

With what is commonly known as the 'silly season' well and truly underway, we thought it timely to bring you up to date with recent happenings within and between the teams at the top of the WRC tree.

In a move that surprised no one, Subaru recently confirmed that the prized services of Colin McRae, who had been a Subaru driver since 1991, had left he team to drive for Ford. Team Director David Lapworth commented that he was disappointed that Colin was to leave as he felt he would leave as the 1998 World Rally champion.

This move will give Juha Kankkunen a new team mate for 99, as well as providing team Director Malcolm Wilson the luxury of having drivers with either five or six World Championships between them, provided Colin bags the 98 title. But that also begs the question what about Bruno Thiry? He was believed to be leaving the team he has driven for on and off since 1995, however the future looks a little better. Ford may employ him as their tarmac specialist, and as Kankkunen still does not shine on tarmac, this may make sense. However, his name is still linked to a possible drive at SEAT alongside regular driver, Finn Harri Rovanpera.

The vacant drive at Subaru is almost certain to be filled by ex Subaru man Richard Burns, who thinks it is great to be wanted by two teams, but favours the number one status he would almost undoubtedly have at Subaru in 99.

Other rumours suggest that Didier Auriol may go to Peugeot, however the Frenchman's recent form may suggest he does not want to move. Recent reports have his seat going to young Belgian Freddy Loix, however his name has also come up in conversations in New Zealand recently with the vacant Mitsubishi seat, not to mention the vacant second seat at Subaru - See what we mean by the silly season?!

One driver not moving in the rush to get a seat is two time World Champion Tommi Makinen, who will stay with Mitsubishi Ralliart for at least another year.

In other news, Welshman Gwyndaf Evans will drive a SEAT Ibiza Kit Car in this year's Rally Australia, and may even get a run in the new WRC car for his home round of this year's WRC, the RAC Rally in late November. Young Finn Juha Kangas has been linked to a third Subaru, as in NZ, for a couple of the later WRC events this year also, while the Hyundai bosses are still deciding whether to make their sensational F2 contender into a WRC car for 99.

And Juha Kankkunen tested a rallycross car fitted with the transverse mounted Ford Focus engine and pronounced that the engine deficiency they have at the moment will be fixed by the new car's engine.

(News by Neil Blackbourn, rally photographer & journalist) -----------------------------------------------------------

FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers Classification after the event: RALLY of New Zealand (NZ) 17 classified participants (top 10)

1.  Sainz (E)         41
2.  McRae (GB)        38
3.  Mäkinen (FIN)     28
4.  Kankkunen (FIN)   27
=4. Auriol (F)        27
6.  Burns (GB)        21
7.  Loix (F)          12
8.  Liatti (I)        11
9.  Vatanen (FIN)      6
=9. Delecour (F)       6

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FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers Classification after the event: RALLY of New Zealand (NZ) 4 classified participants

Toyota            63
Subaru            52
Mitsubishi        49
Ford              36

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FIA Cup for Drivers of Production Cars Classification after the event: RALLY of New Zealand (NZ) 37 classified participants (top 7)

1.  Trelles (ROU)     68
2.  Stohl (A)         55
3.  Climent (E)       29
4.  Al Wahaibi (OM)   19
5.  Walfridson (S)    13
5=.  Guest (AUS)       13
6.  Backlund (S)       8

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FIA 2-Litre World Cup for Manufacturers Classification after the event: RALLY of New Zealand (NZ) 5 classified participants

1.  Seat              75 
2.  Peugeot           55
3.  Volkswagen        26
4.  Renault           12
5.  Hyundai           12

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FIA Teams' Cup Classification after the event: RALLY of New Zealand (NZ) 10 classified participants (top 5)

1.  Grifone HF (I)                   50
2.  Uruguay en Carrera (ROU)         21
3.  Mobil 1 Stomil Olsztyn (PL)      20
4.  Toyota Turkey (TR)               15
5.  Sawfish Racing Team (A)          15

----------------------------------------------------------- This list is provided by Dusty Rallying http://www.dusty.com.au

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Freddy Loix , Richard Burns , Harri Rovanpera , Didier Auriol , Juha Kangas , Juha Kankkunen , Malcolm Wilson , Gwyndaf Evans