McRae survives dune scare to stay in contention

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The Independent Online

Colin McRae retained his position in the top three of this event yesterday after surviving a scare on the 700-kilometre trek to Mauritania in western Africa.

The Scotsman was handed an unexpected boost late on Tuesday night when his seven-and-a-half-minute speeding penalty was rescinded, lifting him into third position in his first Dakar Rally.

McRae remains in third place after registering the fifth-fastest time yesterday on the seventh stage from Tan-Tan in Morocco to Atar in Mauritania, although the 1995 world rally champion was grateful to finish at all after being trapped in a sand dune at one point.

McRae, driving a Nissan, is 41min 29sec adrift of the overall leader, Hiroshi Masuoka, the Mitsubishi driver whose second consecutive stage win kept him in control.

Stephane Peterhansel, also a Mitsubishi driver, is second overall, less than 12 minutes adrift of Masuoka.

The standings in the motorcycle class were shuffled when the overnight leader, Isidre Esteve Pujol, slipped out of contention after an accident and a mechanical problem. That gifted the lead to Cyril Despres, whose third place on stage seven was enough to lift him to the top of the pile, with Joan Roma second overall.

Richard Sainct moved into third place in the standings after pipping Jean Brucy to yesterday's stage victory, while Derbyshire's Mike Extance is 54th on his Honda after finishing 39th yesterday.