McRae confirms Dakar assault

Former World Rally Champion Colin McRae has signed to contest the gruelling Paris-Dakar rally for Nissan

McRae confirms Dakar assault

The Scot will drive the Japanese marque's Double Cab 4x4 on the event that starts in Auvergne, France on January 1. McRae's team-mate will be 1981 World Champion Ari Vatanen. The Finn has won the Paris-Dakar four times.

McRae has stressed that his appearance on the event is a one-off but that it might signal the start of a new chapter in his motorsport career.

"It's something I've always wanted to do," said McRae. "I always enjoyed the Safari, especially the old Safaris, an event where you could pace yourself, but it's very much a learning year for me."

McRae's co-driver for the event will be Tina Thorner, a vastly experienced Swede who has previously co-driven for Vatanen.

The announcement that McRae will tackle the Paris-Dakar for the first time adds confusion to the rumours surrounding his possible move to Subaru, where a vacancy has arisen due to the sad news that Richard Burns is suffering from a brain tumour.

Although the Dakar does not clash with any WRC rounds, the event finishes just five days before the start of the Monte Carlo Rally, and McRae would have great trouble in committing to both events. Another stumbling block in the way of any Subaru deal is the fact that testing for the second round, the Swedish Rally, is carried out in December, when McRae will likely be testing his Nissan rally raid machine.

The Prodrive-run squad has many other options besides McRae, however, including his brother Alister, Peugeot refugee Harri Rovanpera, Finnish youngster Mikko Hirvonen, France's Simon Jean-Joseph and Subaru's WRC Production Cup champion Martin Rowe.

Subaru won the World Drivers' Championship title with Petter Solberg on Wales Rally GB earlier this month, and is likely to target a Manufacturers' title success in 2004, which would require two top-line drivers.

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