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Monday, April 19, 1999 Published at 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK


Sport

McRae hit by turbo trouble

McRae's Ford Focus in action in Portugal

Colin McRae's hopes of a third successive world rally win suffered a massive setback on the opening day of the Catalunya Rally.

The winner of the Safari and Portuguese events was hit by a turbo-boost problem in his Ford Focus, which forced him to stop midway through the longest stage of the day.

The 30-year-old was lying just 10 seconds off the lead when the mishap occurred, but by the end of the day he had dropped seven minutes on the leaders and was contemplating retirement.

Mechanics eventually fixed the failure which had left his supercharged Focus performing like the road version.

But the Scot has no chance of battling back from such a deficit and the team will decide overnight whether to quit or use the rest of the event to give the still new car some competitive miles on dry asphalt roads.

"We repaired the car fully but obviously Colin has lost too much time to be in contention for a top place," said team director Malcolm Wilson.

"We will have to decide whether he will continue tomorrow."

McRae knew that victory in the three-day event would take him top of the championship standings following his wins in Kenya and Portugal.

Lightweight leaders

He is boung to lose ground in the championship standings when the fifth rally of the season ends on Wednesday having moved within two points of the lead with his wins in Kenya and Portugal.

But the Scot could be helped if the lightweight Citreon Xsaras of Spain's Jesus Puras and Philippe Bugalski maintain their first day showing.

Puras leads by seven seconds from Bugalski with the two-wheel drive Citroens revelling on the dry roads of north-east Spain.

The extra weight is proving a disadvantage to McRae's four-wheel drive rivals who could lose vital points if forced to battle for the minor placings.

Frenchman Didier Auriol, just three points behind McRae in the drivers' standings, is leading the challenge with third place just 10 seconds adrift.

Auriol's Toyota team-mate Carlos Sainz is fourth on his home rally with reigning champion and current title pace-setter Tommi Makinen fifth, but more than half-a-minute adrift for Mitsubishi.

Britain's Richard Burns is seventh overall for Subaru after struggling with wrong tyre choice.

Earlier, the first stage of the day had been abandoned amid safety fears for the drivers and thousands of fans.





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