Illegal stop sees Sainz title hopes diminish

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The Independent Online

The Ford driver Carlos Sainz was disqualified from the Rally of Australia yesterday after he was deemed guilty of illegally stopping to lose time deliberately on the ninth stage. The Spaniard, who had already seen his team-mate Colin McRae's championship challenge suffer when the Scot retired on the sixth stage, now faces an uphill task to win the world title.

The Ford driver Carlos Sainz was disqualified from the Rally of Australia yesterday after he was deemed guilty of illegally stopping to lose time deliberately on the ninth stage. The Spaniard, who had already seen his team-mate Colin McRae's championship challenge suffer when the Scot retired on the sixth stage, now faces an uphill task to win the world title.

Ford, whose chances of winning the manufacturers' crown have been hit by the double exit, said they would not appeal against Sainz's disqualification.

The International Automobile Federation said in a statement that the stewards had considered the marshals' report and video recordings taken from a helicopter and concluded that Sainz's car had stopped for between 10 and 20 seconds before the finishing line and after a yellow warning sign.

Sainz said that he had not seen the warning sign close to the finish. "I'm not very happy as I didn't see the yellow board as it is not marked during the recce," Sainz said. "When you drive flat-out during the stage you cannot see it and don't know where it is."

Drivers were hoping to avoid the disadvantage of being first on the dirty gravel road on the second leg.

McRae's hopes of regaining the title faded after he developed engine trouble. The 1995 champion, who began the rally joint third in the standings, six points behind Marcus Gronholm and one adrift of fellow Briton Richard Burns, will be out of contention if either wins tomorrow.

Burns is fourth, 21.5 seconds behind his Subaru team-mate Juha Kankkunen, but is annoyed at the tactics. "The outcome of the World championship should be decided on the stages," Burns said. "Unfortunately, my hand is now forced. I will be obliged, against my principles, to use the same tactics as the other teams if we are to win."

TELSTRA RALLY OF AUSTRALIA (Perth) Standings after 10 special stages: 1 J Kankkunen (Fin) Subaru 1hr 27min 17.2sec, 2 F Delecour (Fr) Peugeot 9.6sec behind, 3 T Makinen (Fin) Mitsubishi 13.7, 4 R Burns (GB) Subaru 21.5, 5 M Gronholm (Fin) Peugeot 23.5, 6 T Laukkanen (Fin) Ford 35.0, 7 T Gardemeister (Fin) SEAT 43.8, 8 P Bourne (NZ) Subaru 1:01.9, 9 K Eriksson (Swe) Hyundai 1:07.5, 10 A McRae (GB) Hyundai Accent 1:29:06.800.

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