McRae targets Dakar victory

Former World Rally Champion Colin McRae has set his sights on victory in the Dakar Rally, which kicks off in Barcelona today with a record field of 696 entrants.

McRae targets Dakar victory

The Scot set two fastest stage times on his debut in the gruelling marathon event last year, but finished a disappointing 20th after his Nissan Pickup was hit by transmission problems that left him stranded in the desert for two days. He later delivered on that potential by winning the Baja Portalegre in October, effectively a shakedown for Dakar.

"I'm setting off with a win in mind," said McRae. "Last year we were very under-prepared compared to where we are now and we had some reliability problems. But since then we've been testing and developing the new Pickup and hopefully we're at a level where we can do the full event with a minimum amount of trouble."

The route for the 2005 event snakes down from Spain into Morocco and through the Sahara desert to Mauritania and Mali before ending in the Senegalese capital of Dakar on January 16. Despite organisers having trimmed two stages from the route, this year's 27th edition of the off-road classic still amounts to some 5,590 miles through some of the most difficult terrain imaginable.

"Dakar is all about getting away from the WRC mentality," commented McRae. "You have to relax a bit and try not to worry about the time passing. The thing that's very important is to push hard early and get to Africa in a good position to avoid the dust."

McRae, who will again have Sweden's Tina Thorner as his co-driver, faces stiff competition from the likes of 2004 winner Stephane Peterhansel and Joan Roma, who won the motorcycle category last year on a KTM and makes the switch to four wheels with Mitsubishi - to say nothing of fellow WRC legends Juha Kankkunen and Ari Vatanen.

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