Rallying: McRae recovers to share lead on day of drama

The tension mounts for Colin McRae as the RAC Rally heads for its last day. Derick Allsop reports from Cheltenham.

Six competitors and a spectator were taken to hospital yesterday after a series of crashes in the Network Q RAC Rally. The day's drama, controversy and anxiety ended with Colin McRae and Richard Burns, remarkably, together on the same time. The world championship is now delightfully set up for an enthralling finale.

Proceedings were marred by a bad accident involving two relatively unknown British competitors, John Leckie and his co-driver Graham Lewis, who were seriously injured when they crashed on the Hafren stage. Further incidents on that stage and the next forced the organisers to abandon them.

Leckie, from Prestatyn, north Wales, was taken to Morriston Hospital in Swansea for surgery on a serious facial injury. Lewis was airlifted to Aberystwyth hospital with suspected chest and spinal injuries. The injured spectator, who suffered a broken leg, was struck by a tree uprooted by the Italian duo, Andrea Navarra and Alessandro Alessandrini. The Italians were taken to hospital with cuts and bruises.

McRae picked himself up from eighth place in the early morning gloom to draw level with Burns on the final stage. To become champion, McRae must win the rally and hope that Tommi Makinen, at present sixth, drops at least one place in today's concluding stages in south Wales.

If the 29-year-old Scot now pulls it off, he will be acclaimed on the famous racecourse here this evening as the most popular winner since Desert Orchid.

Such a scenario seemed a distant fantasy when he was caught out by fog and darkness on the first Welsh forest stage yesterday. He put his Subaru in a ditch and negotiated the rest of the Radnor stage with extreme caution and lost 90 seconds. His main rivals overhauled him, none more gleefully than Burns, the 26-year-old Englishman.

Burns said: "I knew I had six minutes more daylight than the others, so I went full force. I passed Didier Auriol, who had been two minutes in front of me. It's a great start."

McRae, unsurprisingly, had a different perspective. He could not contain his frustration and said: "I couldn't see a thing and drove straight off a straight piece of road. It was terrible out there. It shouldn't be allowed in a professional world championship. It should be decided by who's the quickest driver, not the weather. Maybe they should reverse the running order a bit the following day to make it fair."

He channelled his anger in a positive manner thereafter, winning four consecutive stages and climbing closer to Burns. The gap was reduced by a further 10 seconds when the Mitsubishi driver incurred a penalty for taking too long at a service stop. His team-mate, Makinen, received a 20-second penalty for a similar offence. Burns retaliated on the penultimate stage but McRae's five-second margin of victory on the last sent both back to headquarters here on 2hr 13min 43sec.

"All I can do now is go all out on the final day but then that's what I've had to do all the way through. The rest is out of my control," McRae said.

Mitsubishi may yet play their joker to scupper him. If he and Burns are still neck and neck with one stage to go, then Burns, McRae's former team- mate, could be instructed to sacrifice his own rally rather than risk a second place that might endanger Makinen's chances of finishing in the points.

McRae's situation is effectively unaltered. All he can do is stick to the original script and go all out for the win. Makinen, too, could remove the doubts by increasing his pace. He has patently been restrained by his team, which has proved an irritating if understandable expedient for him.

Finland's Juha Kankkunen starts the final day third, his Ford team-mate, Carlos Sainz, fourth. Auriol, troubled from that opening stage, rolled out of the rally late in the day.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
News
video
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Teachers Required in King's Lynn

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in King's Ly...

Primary Teachers needed in Ely

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teacher needed in the Ely ar...

Teaching Assistant to work with Autistic students

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education Leicester ...

KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: KS2 Teacher needed in Peterborough a...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain