McRae hit by another breakdown in desert

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The Independent Online

Colin Mcrae suffered a double dose of bad luck during the Dakar Rally yesterday. Following his win and a second place on the last two stages respectively, the Scot again struggled with mechanical problems - after transmission failure had seen him stranded in the desert twice earlier in the event.

Yesterday, the 1995 world rally champion was 12 minutes late starting stage 15 following an electrical problem and then found himself stuck in the African wilderness again, this time with prop shaft trouble.

McRae lost any chance of a decent finish, although because he was already 17 hours off the pace, finishing the event was his main priority anyway.

Hiroshi Masuoka closed the gap on the leader, Stephane Peterhansel, with a victory, although the Japanese driver is still 55 minutes behind after his French rival clocked the second-quickest time. Giniel de Villiers was third, while Jean Louis Schlesser rounds off the overall top three.

On two wheels, Joan Roma still leads after setting the third-fastest time, although his advantage was cut to just over seven minutes by Richard Sainct, who finished second on stage 15. Cyril Despres is third overall, while Fabrizio Meoni took the daily honours.

Roma is beginning to contemplate victory with just two stages left. "Every kilometre that we ride is a kilometre less, but there still are 250km," he said. "At some moments I thought of the win but quickly took that out of my mind. In 2000, that's what I was thinking about, and I broke my engine a few days before the finish.

"Of course it's important for me to win, but it isn't an obsession," he added. "When it does become an obsession you make mistakes. This year, I'm having fun. Added to that, the fact that we're in Africa means that there aren't a lot of Europeans - no Spaniards to talk to me about the victory and put extra pressure on my shoulders."