McRae won't take Safari chances

Colin McRae is putting World Rally Championship points ahead of records as he prepares to tackle the toughest event on the WRC calendar, Kenya's Safari Rally

McRae won't take Safari chances

The Scot sits at the top of the standings after three victories in a row, and a fourth win on the trot would make him the winningest driver in WRC history with 25 overall victories. But for McRae, priority number one in Africa is to put some space between himself and joint points-leader Tommi Makinen in the drivers' standings.

"I'm looking forward to it," McRae told Motorsport News, "because Safari we should be quite strong on and Tommi hasn't been brilliant there - he always seems to run into problems.

"Obviously, if we had to fight on the last day and take chances to win, I wouldn't do that now. Maybe two rallies ago I still would have taken a bit more of a chance to win, but really, we can afford to be a bit more tactical about it now."

McRae's Ford team mate Carlos Sainz is third in the current standings, just four points behind McRae and Makinen, and he too can move on to a record-breaking 25 WRC wins by winning in Kenya. All three are former winners of the event, but the Spaniard knows how the rough open roads can bite hard.

"The roads are so rough that there are many places where you must let your head rule your heart and slow down," he said. "The trick is to judge accurately when, and by how much, to slow down. The temptation is to drive faster and take more risks, but of course that's when you risk going beyond the limits of the car and tyres."

The last four Safari Rallies have been dominated by McRae and Subaru team-leader Richard Burns, but the Englishman is seeing his WRC challenge fade and knows he must aim for victory on the fast equatorial roads. Burns, who lies 15 points behind 'Mc and Mak', won last year's event and is bullish on his chances of a third victory.

"The Safari is a good event for me," he said. "I rank it with the Rally of Great Britain as one of the events I'm most comfortable with in the championship. I've had some good results there over the last few years - especially last year's win - and I don't see why it should be any different this time."

The event begins on Friday morning at 1020 local time (08:20 BST), with four competitive sections totalling 352km centred around the Whistling Thorns service area. Saturday sees five more sections totalling a whopping 425km, with servicing on the equator, while Sunday's four sections and service are identical to Friday's.

Uniquely in the WRC, the Safari runs on roads that are not closed to the public, meaning crews always run the risk of a close shave with a local bus. Works teams use helicopters to warn drivers of oncoming vehicles and wildlife. In testing for the event, McRae collided with a donkey, but all manner of local species have been known to wander into the road at inopportune moments.

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