Rallying: McRae negotiates a higher gear to register first victory: First British win in world championship event since Roger Clark in 1976

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COLIN McRAE, of Scotland, became the first British driver for 17 years to win a world championship event when he won the Rally of New Zealand, which finished in Auckland yesterday.

McRae's triumph made up for two crashes when leading in past events, the most recent coming at the Acropolis Rally in Greece a month ago.

McRae, 25, led the French Ford driver, Francois Delecour, overnight by 15 seconds, but the gap closed to seven seconds at one point on the final day.

McRae admitted 'a slight bit of panic set in for a while' before he extended his lead to 27 seconds at the end. Didier Auriol, of France, brought his Toyota in two seconds behind the second-placed Delecour.

McRae, from Lanark, is the son of the five-times British champion, Jimmy McRae. 'He's as happy as I am. They're having a big party in Scotland now,' McRae said.

The last Briton to win a world championship rally was Roger Clark, driving a Ford in the RAC Rally of 1976.