Fire damages McRae's title hopes

Colin McRae's hopes of winning the World Rally Championship for a second time suffered a serious blow when his Ford Focus caught fire and burned out, just two stages away from a vital third placed finish on Rally Finland yesterday (Sunday)

Fire damages McRae's title hopes

The Scot was set to join Peugeot rivals Marcus Gronholm and Richard Burns on the podium until a rock smashed into the Ford Focus's rear differential, leaking oil onto the hot exhaust and causing the rear of his car to burst into flames.

"About 700 metres from the end we started to smell something and by the time we reached the stop line, there was thick black smoke in the cockpit," said McRae. "We couldn't see or breathe. We leapt out and the whole of the rear of the car from the back wheels onwards was on fire.

"We tried to put out the flames, but every time we thought we had done it, they re-ignited. Eventually a fire tender arrived and the fire was put out with foam. Thinking back, we saw people waving us down for the last couple of kilometres of the stage, but we thought they were enthusiastic fans."

McRae's championship chances have taken a serious dent - he's now 17 points behind Marcus Gronholm with five rallies remaining.

"It's so disappointing because everything had gone so well," he continued. "The car ran perfectly all rally, the pace notes were good and it's even more frustrating because we were so close to the finish. Third would have been good result, one we would have settled for before the start."

Close rival Richard Burns was quick to offer his sympathies to the Ford driver saying: "I feel really sorry for Colin's rally to end that way."

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