Rallying: Tarmac `trials' benefit McRae

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The Independent Online
COLIN McRAE will be looking for a quick return to winning form in the Tour of Corsica, which begins tomorrow, after missing out on a hat-trick of victories in Spain with a turbo problem on the first day.

The Scotsman eventually pulled out of last month's Catalunya Rally at the end of the second day, but is confident the extra time on the tarmac will prove vital for the asphalt roads on the three-day event.

"Even though it was disappointing not to be challenging for a win on the rally, the `test' session was very worthwhile," McRae said. "We learnt a lot about the car in ideal conditions in Spain. The car ran very well before we had the problems. We set a couple of fastest times on the second day which was encouraging."

McRae was helped in Spain by the controversial victory of Philippe Bugalski in his lighter Citroen F2 car, which stopped his four-wheel-drive title rivals scoring more points. It means the 30 year old goes into the sixth round of the championship in third place, just six points behind the title- holder Tommi Makinen and three adrift of Didier Auriol.

McRae will have a further opportunity to score additional points this weekend in a revolutionary attempt to increase rallying's appeal to television viewers. Extra points will be on offer for the first time for the top three in the final, nine-mile long televised stage on Sunday. Three points will go to the stage winner, points which could be vital considering Makinen won the title for the third time last year by just two points from Carlos Sainz.

The scheme, though, is unpopular with many team chiefs and drivers, who will be allowed to take part in the stage even if they crashed out earlier.

"I'm concerned about it distorting the result of the championship," Andrew Cowan, the director of Makinen's Mitsubishi team, said.