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Friday, February 12, 1999 Published at 19:47 GMT


McRae tumbles out in Sweden

Colin McRae in action at the Monte Carlo Rally

Colin McRae was forced to retire from the Swedish Rally on the opening special stage on Saturday.

The 30-year-old Scot quit after his Ford Focus developed an engine problem on the eight-mile section in central Sweden.

McRae had started the second day in fifth place almost two minutes down on overnight leader Tommi Makinen of Finland.

On the opening day, McRae badly damaged his left rear wheel when his Ford Focus found a ditch on the sixth special stage.

The Scot was severely hampered over the last few miles of the 13-mile long stage before managing to fit a spare at the end of the timed section.

"We must have hit a rock because it smashed the wheel and we had to drive the final seven kilometres with the car running onto the brake disc," said 30-year-old McRae.

The problem lost him over a minute and although he still maintained fifth place overall ended the day nearly two minutes down on rally leader Tommi Makinen.

The world champion is having a tough time staying ahead of Spain's Carlos Sainz with the gap between the two of just 0.2 of a second.

Swedish experience

McRae was overshadowed by Swedish team-mate Thomas Radstrom who used his local knowledge of the icy forest roads of central Sweden to finish third overall just 21 seconds off the lead.

"The Focus is running unbelievably well," said Radstrom. "People ask why Scandinavian's have such car control in the snow, but it is all about being born in these conditions and driving in them for five months every year."

Britain's Richard Burns, a disappointing eighth in Monte Carlo, was 11th after the opening stage but recovered to sixth despite struggling with grip.

Leading positions at end of first day:

  1. T Makinen 1hr 15mins 35.7secs
  2. C Sainz at 1.7secs
  3. T Radstrom at 21.7secs
  4. D Auriol at 35.2secs
  5. C McRae at 1min 57.1secs
  6. R Burns at 2mins 26.9secs

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