McRae wins Acropolis and takes world title lead

Colin McRae has turned his season around with a third consecutive World Rally Championship victory on the gruelling Acropolis Rally in Greece. The Scot moves into the joint lead of the WRC standings, having been point-less just three events ago

McRae wins Acropolis and takes world title lead

McRae led coming into the final day, but was embroiled in a three-way fight with his Ford team mate Carlos Sainz and the Subaru of Richard Burns.

"I'm relieved," said McRae. "It's obviously very disappointing for Carlos, but I saw my Dad (Jimmy) out with a board saying he was out, so I was able to cruise to the finish.

"Going in to the last stage, I was really confident because I'd beaten Carlos there earlier today."

Burns had the theoretical edge by starting third on the road, thus gaining the benefit of road-sweeping from McRae and Sainz ahead, but he slid off the road on the day's second stage and dropped out of the points positions. He retired on the penultimate stage with a suspected broken propshaft.

Carlos Sainz saw the chance to move to the top of the World Rally Championship standings slip from his grasp when his Ford Focus ground to a halt just eight kilometres into the final 38.69km Elatia-Rengini 2 test, SS20.

"The car slowed down suddenly," said Sainz. "It went on to three cylinders and then it stopped.

"I think it's a mechanical failure - nothing to do with me pushing too hard. I'm used to these things - the sport can be cruel sometimes."

"It's a bitter sweet win," added Ford World Rally boss Malcolm Wilson. "It's a fantastic performance by the team. There were no team orders and we felt confident and comfortable of letting them fight.

"Carlos's car went onto three cylinders, then lost oil pressure. We'll know more when we look at the data. We're obviously delighted for Colin and to get three wins in a row is an incredible achievement."

Wilson denied that Sainz was pushing too hard, saying: "I don't think so. They both knew what they had to do and it's just one of those situations."

McRae now has 30 points and heads the WRC standings jointly with Mitsubishi's Tommi Makinen.

Before the Acropolis, Spaniard Sainz was on 26 points - just one less than points leader Makinen - and would have moved onto 32, two more than McRae and three more than the Finn, if the pair had finished the event in their pre-stage positions of second and fifth respectively.

Petter Solberg scored his best ever WRC result with second overall for Subaru, despite breaking his gearbox with 10km to go and having to jam it into fourth..

"It was nerve-wracking. I'm so happy I almost started to cry when I finished the last stage," he said. "After all the bad rallies I've had this year, this is a terrific result."

Harri Rovanpera was third for Peugeot, following the retirement of the other works 206 WRCs of Marcus Gronholm and Didier Auriol.

"It's the best result we could have hoped for," he said. "Now we have to go to Safari and try and finish. Maybe my time will come again in Finland."

The Safari Rally, the next round of the WRC, is on July 13-15.

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SS20, Elatia-Rengini 2: McRae does enough

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