Rallying: Gambling pays off for Liatti

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Few would have backed Piero Liatti to win the Monte Carlo Rally, but the Subaru driver took a gamble and yesterday became the first Italian to win the event since Miki Biasion in 1989.

Brilliant driving on slippery roads and astute but risky choices of tyres were the keys to the 34-year-old's success in the winter classic, which opened a season marked by a revolution in formats and rules.

On several occasions in the four-day race, the Italian, who clocked the best time in half of the rally's 18 timed stages, fitted his Impreza with dry asphalt tyres when his rivals expected wet terrain. "It really paid off because the sun had melted the remaining ice and dried out the wet sections," said Liatti, who finished 55 seconds ahead of the Ford Escort of Spain's Carlos Sainz, twice a Monte Carlo winner.

The Finnish world champion, Tommi Makinen, looked like winning but he dropped out of contention by losing control of his Mitsubishi Lancer and hitting a snowdrift with three stages remaining and finished third, 2min 31sec behind Liatti.