McRae beats demons

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Colin McRae yesterday experienced perhaps the most extraordinary race of his career with a hard-fought victory in the Safari Rally in Nairobi.

McRae suffered electrical difficulties with his Subaru over the closing stages, but clutch problems for second-placed fellow Briton Richard Burns ensured McRae finished more than seven minutes ahead of the field.

Fortunately for the Scot, there was no repeat of Sunday's problems when vandals left a pile of rocks in his path forcing him to swerve and crash through a wall at full speed. The steering rack and left front wishbone took the main impact, but after a delay of around three minutes he managed to return to the action. He still finished the second leg in the lead and held on yesterday to earn his first, and Subaru's third, success of the year.

McRae had managed just one fourth place in the previous two rounds of the championship. He had a problem with the alternator in the morning but, once that was fixed, he drove faultlessly to victory over Burns in the Mitsubishi Carisma and third-placed Kenya's Ian Duncan in a Toyota.

Burns' second place, after driving for most of the day without a clutch, was a boost for Mitsubishi, particularly as they lost the reigning world champion, Tommi Makinen, yesterday. The Finn retired after a puncture saw him drive 25 miles with a flat tyre, causing his rear suspension to fail.

On the rally's opening day, both the series leader Carlos Sainz, in a Ford Escort, and McRae's Subaru team-mate, Kenneth Eriksson, were forced to retire due to mechanical problems caused by the rocky terrain.

McRae now has 13 points in the drivers' championship after three rounds, with Sainz in second place with 12 and Eriksson and Italy's Piero Liatti in joint third place on 10 points. Subaru maintain their lead in the manufacturers' championship.

Results, Digest, page 25