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Sunday, February 28, 1999 Published at 15:12 GMT


McRae success on Safari

Clouds of the dust as McRae drives to victory

Scotland's Colin McRae has won the Safari Rally in Kenya - a first triumph for the new Ford Focus car in only its third world championship event.

BBC Radio 5 Live's Sam Lloyd reports
World champion Tommi Makinen was nearly eight minutes back but lost his second place for receiving illegal help fixing a puncture.

Stewards viewed video and other photographic evidence which showed he had assistance from local fans.

[ image: Makinen: Illegal puncture repair]
Makinen: Illegal puncture repair
Makinen admitted the mistake: "It was a stupid thing that it happened. There was nothing I could have done."

The decision means Didier Auriol and Toyota team-mate Carlos Sainz were both promoted to podium finishes in a result which opens up the battle for the world championship.

Makinen now leads Auriol by nine points with McRae and Sainz only three points further back.

McRae's victory comes just a month after the Focus was ruled illegal at Monte Carlo because of a water pump and follows retirement on the championship's Swedish second round.

This was Ford's first win on the African event for 22 years but McRae previously tasted victory two years ago in a Subaru.

'Toughest and hardest in the world'

"The first one was special because the Safari is regarded as the toughest and hardest in the world," said the delighted Scot.

"But this is equally so. To bring almost a brand new car to victory here is really incredible.

"Nobody expected us to win here this year, probably not even next year or the one after that."

McRae saw his 14-minute overnight lead cut by two minutes on each of the final days's three long stages.

But he was just protecting the Focus from a late mishap as he picked his way through the rock-laden roads in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro.

"This morning was nerve-wracking. I don't think I've ever been as nervous in a car going for a win as I was today," he admitted.

Millions paid back

The former world champion had vowed pre-season that he would deliver a rapid victory to repay his 6m salary.

He did not win a single stage in the rally, but added: "The Safari is always about judging your speed and pace, not going quick all the time.

"But this win proves that there was never any performance advantage in the water pump. There is still more potential in the car so it's looking good for the future."

Ford had double cause for celebration as Petter Solberg took fifth place.

He had replaced McRae's regular team-mate Thomas Radstrom who had to pull out of the Safari after breaking his leg falling down the steps of his hotel.

McRae had inherited the lead yesterday when fellow Briton Richard Burns was cruelly forced to retire with mechanical trouble having dominated the opening two days of the event.

Meanwhile Auriol celebrated being handed second place with a simple assessment of his efforts.

"I have never driven so fast in my life. We had a very nice car," said the Frenchman.

Result after appeal

1. Colin McRae, Britain, Ford, 8 hrs 41 mins 39 secs
2. Didier Auriol, France, Toyota, 8:56:05
3. Carlos Sainz, Spain, Toyota, 8:59:46
4. Ian Duncan, Kenya, Toyota, 9:05:35
5. Peter Solberg, Norway, Ford, 9:26:28
6. Harri Rovanpera, Finland, Seat, 9:40:08

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