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  Friday, 15 November, 2002, 15:08 GMT
Crashes and cancellations
Markko Martin sends a wave of mud flying
The Welsh forests are proving to be a real test

As the second stage of the Network Q Rally of Great Britain powered its way into the Welsh forests on Friday, the drivers found the conditions tricky to say the least.

After heavy overnight rain, they faced very slippery roads, invaded by thick mud and loose stones.

Indeed, the three forest stages of Brechfa, Trawscoed and Rheola claimed their first victims early in the day.

Open in new window  :  GB Rally stage guide

Four-time MotoGP world motorcycle champion Valentino Rossi found the transition to four wheels a tough task.

He pushed his Peugeot too hard as he sped through the 32.12km stage at Brechfa, crashing out and ending his debut early.

On a crisp winter day, the early morning sun also troubled the experienced drivers as much as the lack of traction.

Bright rays gleamed from the cars' windscreens, bringing out myriad colours from the trees escorting the cars around the twisting circuits.

As the drivers got on with the serious business of racing, the spectator numbers steadily grew, swelling the ranks of the hardcore early contingent.

Juuso Pykalisto in his Peugeot 206
Rally cars sped through the tough forests

As midday approached, news came that the fourth stage - where drivers would have tackled Brechfa for the second time - had been cancelled because of safety concerns.

Possibly more spectators than intended had turned out, but it was equally likely that adventurous rally fans had strayed from the "corrals" carefully designed to keep them out of harm's way.

Whatever the reason, after Carlos Sainz's crash last year that saw 13 spectators taken to hospital, the rally organisers are being extra careful there is no tragic repeat.

Away from the tracks, the Felindre service station hub provided plenty of its own action, as the cars returned bearing the wounds from their battle with the forests.

As the mechanics and team members worked franticly on the ground, helicopters hovered casting a watchful eye over proceedings.

They had been privileged to watch Colin McRae end up in one of the many ditches, that seemingly beckon drivers like spiders' webs attracting flies.

The Trawscoed section also punished any errors.

Richard Burns ran off the road - probably ending his hopes of winning the rally and salvaging some pride at the end of a long and difficult year.

But Burns was not alone, as a host of drivers failed to came to terms with the twisting track.

The final stage of the World Rally Championship is proving to be as difficult as any that the drivers have faced this season.

They will have to exploit all of their driving skills if they are to reap any rewards - and keep their vehicles in one piece.

RALLY GB STAGE GUIDE
SEASON SO FAR
TOP TEAMS AND DRIVERS


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